Sauk Centre emergency response needs response from the community; with multiple positions open, both the Sauk Centre Fire Department and the Sauk Centre Ambulance Service are looking for volunteers who will respond to crises in the community. The application deadline for the fire department is noon Friday, April 12, while the ambulance service’s deadline for Emergency Medical Technicians is 4:30 p.m. Monday, April 15.

With 29 out of 30 possible volunteers, the fire department has had a position open for a couple of years. However, with two firemen retiring – Mark Sprengeler and Mark Roberg – the department now has three open positions that need volunteers.

“There’s going to be an interview and a physical test, and then we’ll create a list from that and decide who we want to hire,” said Steve Moritz, fire chief for the Sauk Centre Fire Department.

The ambulance service is also looking for a couple of volunteers to help reinforce their service.

“We need more daytime help during the week,” said Kathy Struffert, director of the Sauk Centre Ambulance Service. “People tend to work the daytime hours, and then they’re not available to leave and go on ambulance calls. Someone changes jobs or their position changes within their job, they have to work different hours, and then they’re not available during the daytime like they used to be. Every agency you’ll talk to will say that daytime hours during the week are where they’re lacking the most.”

Even though they have three ambulance rigs at their disposal, the ambulance service often does not have the staffing for all three. When a crew goes out, sometimes they do not have a backup crew to cover for them.

The ambulance service is looking for people who want to serve their community and be there when their neighbors, friends and family need help. Flexibility with their hours is also a desirable quality.

“They also need to have the flexibility to take calls on weekends and be backup on weekends and holidays as well,” Struffert said.

The fire department looks for similar flexibility and stability in their candidates.

“They’ve got to be able to make the calls and be able to make the drills and meetings,” Moritz said. “They’ll need to be available and get the training done, and they’re hopefully going to be staying in the community for years to come. We put all this money here, and we don’t want them leaving.”

Accepted applicants for both departments will have to go through extensive training to prepare them for their role. Ben Clink, supervisor for Sauk Centre Public Works, has been a member of the fire department for seven years and completed his EMT certification for the ambulance service in January 2018.

“It’s a big time commitment,” Clink said. “As long as you put your mind to it and commit to getting it done, anybody can get it done, but it is a challenge, and the biggest challenge is the time that it takes to get it all done.”

Training for the fire department involves 160 hours in the first year. One of the most important steps is the class taken through Alexandria Technical College or Ridgewater College in Willmar. The classes teach volunteers about basic firefighting, extrication, equipment and other firefighting subjects; book learning is combined with physical training, with practical tests after every book chapter test.

“We like to hold the class in town, if we can get enough guys,” Moritz said. “We’d go through the text, and we’ll hold the class at our fire hall. That’s the best-case scenario; worst-case scenario, they’d have to drive somewhere.”

EMTs for the ambulance service have 140 hours of training to complete, including CPR training and attending a class three days a week for about two months at the St. Cloud Vocational Technical Institute. The class teaches volunteers through a textbook and workbook as well as assignments to complete during the week, going over topics about human anatomy and injuries.

Along with the class, EMT volunteers also experience real-life situations such as ride-a-longs with the ambulance crew and following a nurse in a hospital setting. The experiences help volunteers learn the medical lingo and procedures such as taking blood pressure.

“It’s different going to classes than when you actually going out there and you work in the road, working in the back of the rig,” Struffert said. “It’s a big commitment, but it’s worth it.”

In Clink’s experience, volunteers have to be dedicated and committed to success with the departments; sometimes that means being called away from family events, ready to go at a minute’s notice. However, it is a service he recommends.

“Anybody that wants to get involved in their community and help people in their time of need is a great candidate for the position,” Clink said. “It’s a great organization to be involved with. It’s a bunch of good people to work with. Everybody’s there for the same goal, and there’s good camaraderie between everybody. That makes it enjoyable.”