St. Charles Co. first responders target staffing shortage with leadership summit
ST. PETERS (KMOV) - St. Charles leaders say awareness is one way they are trying to remedy a nationwide shortage of first responders.
Around three dozen local business leaders got an inside look at the county’s emergency response options Thursday, including police, fire and EMS. It’s part of a larger months-long leadership summit called Vision Leadership St. Charles County, aiming to put a diverse group of local business leaders in the same room to brainstorm solutions to problems facing the area.
“A fire chief sitting next to a bank teller working on situations and problems in our community to help come up with different solutions,” Vision Executive Director Mark Hollander said. “We need those perspectives from all different walks of life.”
Participants in the workshop got hands-on experience as well, including trying on fire gear and touring the county’s ambulance and law enforcement facilities. In past years, participants even got to go through rescue training scenarios. This year, the outside portions of the tour were postponed due to forecasted severe weather Thursday afternoon.
It’s an experience first responders hope creates more awareness of the myriad of logistics behind emergency response operations amid an ongoing nationwide staffing shortage.
“So people know about the career path, about the education required to enter the EMS profession,” St. Charles County Ambulance District spokesperson Kyle Gaines said.
St. Charles County has looked for other innovative solutions, including an exploratory program for high schoolers, as the county’s population has grown and emergency calls have increased six percent from 2021 to 2022.
“Most participants walk away from today’s experience as stronger, more passionate advocates for the first responder community within our county,” Central County Fire and Rescue Deputy Chief Jason Meinershagen said.
Each month, the Vision leadership summit meets with the goal of exploring a different aspect of county operations, including local government, economic development and more. Participants apply and are chosen in an application process, and pay tuition, which is often sponsored by their companies.
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