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'It's never been this bad during my career:' EMS crews request FEMA's help amid high call volumes, low staff

At least two Triad agencies applied to request FEMA to send resources. Forsyth County currently has three extra ambulances, and Guilford County has two.

GREENSBORO, N.C. — Extremely high call volumes and staffing shortages are two challenges facing Triad emergency service departments, and FEMA is helping out.

Forsyth County EMS and Guilford County EMS both say they cannot remember a time the need was this dire. The departments applied for the request for FEMA to send resources. Forsyth County currently has three extra ambulances and Guilford County has two.

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"It's never been this bad during my career," Deputy Director of Guilford County Emergency Services Kyle Paschal said.

"I've been around emergency services for over 30 years, and that was the first I've seen FEMA brought in for anything other than a natural disaster," Forsyth County Emergency Services Director Daren Ziglar said.

The pandemic hit both Forsyth County and Guilford County emergency services hard. Both staffing challenges and high call volumes are taking a toll.

"We're seeing both ends of it," Ziglar said. "It's hit us almost as a double whammy on staffing and call load."

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At one point, Guilford County EMS was taking more than 300 calls a day.

In Forsyth County, paramedics were running more than 1,200 calls in a seven-day period. Recently, the agencies both submitted a request for resources to FEMA.

"It's really helping with the personnel, because they're tired. They've been getting stretched thin and this is taking a little bit of that load off of them," Ziglar said. "Plus, it's providing a safety net to make sure units are available if someone calls 911."

"I think it's been both a moral improvement to our employees to have a bit of reprieve over what they've been going through since about July, Paschal said. 

While the extra help has been beneficial, the future remains unpredictable.

"We do have them starting today for another two weeks and it will be re-evaluated in about 10 days to see how things are going, to see if the need is still there," Ziglar said.

All the EMS agencies work together to help each other out. Forsyth County said if they run out of units, they could rely on surrounding counties to help them if needed.