Knoxville Volunteer Emergency Rescue Squad (KVERS) is an essential service within Knox County. For nearly 60 years, KVERS has provided exceptional emergency rescue services to the citizens and visitors of our community. Over the years, the importance of and dependency on our services has grown, and therefore, one would think that our community / general public would willingly embrace our organization financially. Unfortunately, this is not the case.
KVERS has struggled with executing fundraising efforts that produce substantial returns. Much of this can be credited to insufficient funding and lack of community education /awareness. It has been our experience, that although our community wants and expects us to provide the highest level of emergency response services, the general public does not feel that they should be responsible for funding our efforts.
Upon surveying citizens of Knox County, we found that 4 out of 5 assumed that KVERS was a fully funded county agency, not a non-profit. It is very difficult for an emergency service organization, like KVERS, who operates strictly on the efforts of volunteers 365 days per year, to realistically and within reason use existing funding to market our services rather than allocate all available funds to the mission of the agency.
We have also found that county and city officials, emergency service partners, community organizations and business owners were also unaware that it is a non-profit organization (Knoxville Volunteer Emergency Rescue Squad) that responds when you are in an accident, locked out of your car or stuck in a ditch during a flood. In talking with local business owners, they were surprised to learn that should their building suffer a fire or structural collapse, KVERS would be the first to respond to command other agencies on the safest means of rescue. Workplaces who have or provide service to a business with confined spaces right here in our community have identified the Knoxville Volunteer Emergency Rescue Squad as their first responder with OSHA without offering any financial gifting to our organization. In this situation, KVERS is funding the training without any financial remuneration from those it benefits. Again, individuals associated with all of the aforementioned assume that KVERS is a division of government provided services like fire and police. Or in many cases, community officials and business owners are aware that KVERS exists, but do not realize that it is not fire or police that performs the range of emergency services, that it is the Knoxville Volunteer Emergency Rescue Squad.
Although we face many obstacles, KVERS continues to address fundraising efforts through community organization partnerships and grant applications, and plans to launch a public awareness campaign inclusive of the development of a website, community speaking engagements, news, social media, print and one on ones should funding afford us to do so. We are also hopeful that funding will enable us to host an informative luncheon that will introduce and educate county and city officials, other community organizations, and community leaders of who we are, what we do and why we have a need for funding.
We entered this fiscal year with a budget shortfall of nearly $360,000 in operational and equipment/apparatus funding. Despite fundraising efforts and funding from the county and the city, United Way, and minimal private donations, KVERS struggles to maintain the level of expertise that this community has grown to expect. With a combined total of annual revenues of less than $500,000.00 annually, we are currently operating four (4) stations, training 125 members, servicing 432,000 citizens over 526 square miles. It is important to point out that in 1989, KVERS received funding in the amount of $90,000 from Knox County to operate 2 stations at a time when gas was under $1.00 per gallon. This year, KVERS received funding in the amount of $300,000 to operate 3 stations. In nearly 30 years, funding to KVERS from Knox County has increased by only 8% per year; roughly $7,500 in additional funding per year.
With increased population and a service area expansion to surrounding areas, we are still operating on the same or less funding from those resources that deem us essential. We are in critical need of additional funding just to maintain our current status. Current funding would never afford us the ability to meet other desperate needs for new emergency 1st out response vehicles, triage response teams –TRTs (Knox County currently requires KVERS to provide 4 during times of inclement weather), standard rescue equipment, station repairs, protective equipment, additional training, uniforms, and funding for community outreach and awareness.
We are currently conducting an expense review and plan to reduce any costs that are within reason. Insurance, Maintenence and Utilities alone consumes 73% of the funding provided by Knox County Government leaving little to address critical needs. Nearly $35,000 is needed just to cover annual fuel expenses. With our current financial shortfall, we are currently forced to consider closing stations and reducing our scope of services. Doing so would directly impact not only the citizens of our county, but the governments of both the county and city. According to industry standards, it is our estimation that it would cost the county $876,977 to provide the same manpower that KVERS currently provides. This figure does not include physical buildings and associated operational expenses, rescue vehicles and fuel, building and vehicle maintenance, equipment, protective gear, uniforms, training and personnel expenses that would accompany personnel. With the addition of those costs, the county could potentially face a capital investment of Emergency Rescue Services in the $5 – 6 million dollar range.
Another option that is being considered is to close all current stations and operate under one main station located centrally in Knox County. This would require a 1-2 acre land donation or lease within the county or city and substantial building funds / capital investments short term. However, consolidation into one main headquarters would effectively reduce ongoing and long term costs and centralize response times.
In summary, Knoxville Volunteer Emergency Rescue Squad cannot continue to operate in its current financial situation and we hope that you will consider supporting our efforts.
Click here for a PDF copy of our Case Statement