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Central City Desperate for EMS Volunteers

CENTRAL CITY, IA (CBS2/FOX28) -- How much time are you willing to wait for an ambulance to show up in an emergency?

That is the question that volunteers with the Northeast Linn Ambulance Service are asking, as they deal with a shortage of volunteers and are unable to completely staff all of their shifts. They say the shortage puts people's lives at risk.

"We have such a shortage of man power. We need more people. The ones that are one are getting so burnt out," said volunteer Linda Lengel.

When that happens, and there aren't volunteers available for a shift, Linn County has to call in an ambulance from a nearby town like Anamosa or Manchester, often adding 30 minutes to the ambulance crew's response time. EMT Rick Naaktgborne said that cuts into the "golden hour" -- the first 60 minutes of an emergency, when responders have the best chance of saving someone's life.

That adds a significant amount of stress to the job, Naaktgborne said.

"In a small community, you're serving people you know. And they count on you," he said.

Naaktgborne first got involved with the ambulance service 25 years ago, after EMTs saved his daughter from drowning. He's hoping other people realize how crucial the service is.

"It makes you think that you need to get involved, and we're having trouble getting people involved. And they're not going to realize it until something tragic happens," he said.

A tragic situation almost happened to Lengel's family this weekend.

"My dad's 79-years-old. He had chest pains the other day. We didn't have a crew," Lengel said.

She said those feelings are scary enough, but they come with a harsher reality. If the ambulance service can't get enough volunteers, it may have to close its doors completely.

"Even with money, if you don't have people, you can't go out the door," Naaktgborne said.

Anyone interested in helping out with the Northeast Linn Ambulance Service is asked to call (319) 438-1772.
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