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New law offers reimbursement for EMT license in exchange for service

The new law gives incentives for people to join volunteer fire departments and rescue squads across the state.

Posted: Dec 26, 2018 3:52 PM
Updated: Dec 26, 2018 6:44 PM

If you become a volunteer firefighter, you can get your EMT training for free! It's happening across the state because of a new law.

Many Shoals volunteer fire departments said they are seeing a decline in recruitment. In fact, the National Fire Protection Association says volunteers are down 12% over the last 3 decades.

Underwood-Petersville Volunteer Firefighter, Tony Eckle, said it's getting harder to recruit people and that's why they've had a series of public meetings to inform people on how to join.

"Getting new people in is important to us. The average volunteer firefighter has an average span of five years," said Eckle

Under a new Alabama law, if someone commits three years of service to a volunteer fire department or rescue squad, they can get their EMT license from Northwest Shoals Community College and be reimbursed for the course.

"It's actually provided an avenue for our first responders and rescue units to come and complete the course and get tuition reimbursement with the commitment to serving their community," said Mark Simpson, the chairperson of house studies at NWSCC.

Simpson said rural communities need more volunteer firefighters that are EMT certified.

"As the population ages, people are calling more for these resources and the need is out there, especially in the remote areas where we don't have an ambulance service base there," said Simpson.

Simpson said people will save about $2,000. He hopes this will encourage more people to serve their communities.

"It is my hope that this will encourage individuals that are serving in their communities to come back and get this education, then go back and serve our communities, because we need those people," said Simpson.

The EMT course is a one semester program. If someone fails the course, they will not be reimbursed. Simpson said they hope to eventually expand the program to include paramedics as well.

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