Aroostook EMS certification training sees a surge in applications

2 years ago

PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — A $220,000 grant will enable the Presque Isle Fire Department to train 30 people in Aroostook County as emergency medical technicians.

The department will work with Northern Maine Community College to screen and train applicants in Fort Kent, Presque Isle and Houlton.

Fire officials hoped to provide free EMT certification to 30 people. But within 48 hours, around 37 people had applied and 21 wanted to know more. Municipalities across Maine have suffered from shortages of emergency medical personnel, worsened by the pandemic. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services grant will help fill crucial emergency personnel needs in The County. 

“The goal of this grant is to try to ease some of the EMS clinician burdens that we have in Aroostook County, so all of our ambulances services all across The County are struggling with staffing,” Fire Chief Darrell White said.

About 10 people will train at either the hospitals or fire stations nearest to them. Teachers will be Matt Beil, NMCC’s emergency medical services instructor, in Fort Kent, career firefighter and paramedic Danny Gahagan in Presque Isle, and career firefighter and paramedic Chase Labbe in Houlton.

Another goal is to have the training sessions prerecorded and available on the NMCC website in case any participants miss a class, White said.

The EMT certification course will be held two nights a week and one Saturday a month from January through May, said Nate Allen, EMT training project director and Presque Isle’s deputy fire chief. The classes will average three hours per class but will run over three hours depending on the class subject.

“They’ll be learning from first aid all the way up into applying oxygen and some medications,” Allen said. “They will be certified nationally and by the state.”

There are two parts to the grant: One will provide for the EMT training, and the second part will help 10 of the students become paramedics or advanced life support technicians.

“When we first started [the EMT certification] we really thought 30 might been pushing it. We were worried we couldn’t fill the 30 slots, but in hindsight — 20/20 — we would have put in a lot more numbers than what we did,” White said.

Andrew Gagnon, chairperson of NMCC’s Emergency Medical Services Department, will work with the fire department’s Allen to contact applicants for interviews.

Anyone 16 or older can apply for the EMT certification program. For more information, visit