Green Country Faces Shortage Of First Responders
TULSA, Oklahoma - Oklahoma's police and fire departments are facing a shortage of first responders.
Several officials across Green Country said they are having difficulty filling positions, leaving them to feel that the shortage could be an even bigger issue down the road.
The Oklahoma Highway Patrol is just one of many first responder agencies facing a shortage of applicants. A big change from when Lt. Dwight Durant joined OHP about 23 years ago.
"We had an academy of about 50 cadets in the academy, I believe we had about 800 people apply, now we are looking for 80 applicants or 80 cadets and we are getting less than half of that apply," Durant said.
OHP is facing a shortage of 300 troopers and Durant says troopers are still doing their jobs effectively, but there has recently been a much-needed push to try and up that number.
The highway patrol even changed their tattoo and marijuana policy to help with recruiting efforts. Other departments are facing a similar issue. The Rolling Hills Fire Department faces a constant battle to recruit volunteers.
"We have brought more people in we are doing statewide events we are going to the fair we are going to different high school games and stuff like that," Rolling Hills Fire Department Deputy Chief Greg Miller said.
"So the volunteer status it seems like it is slowly going away and it seems like it's just getting harder and harder to try to find those people," he said.
Miller also mentioned that most people will join the department, then leave for a paying job.
Green Country's paramedic shortage is also a rising concern.
"We still have holes in our schedule with that staff and that means that trucks are going out of service," Paramedic Supervisor Shelbie Wayman said, OTEMS. "We try to be cutting edge, we try to give them all the equipment they need to run a really well run service."
However, all the first responders share the common goal of helping people because that's all they want.
Both Oologah-Talala EMS and Rolling Hills Fire are accepting applications.
OHP’s next academy starts in February of 2020. Their application process has closed.