Trending Topics

Ga. county highlights benefits from fire, EMS cross-training project

Thomas County Emergency Services began cross-training fire and EMS personnel as a cost-savings measure


A Thomas County EMS ambulance.

Thomas County Emergency Services/Facebook

Thomasville Times-Enterprise

THOMASVILLE, Ga. — Thomas County Emergency Services recently updated the progress of its cross-training program, which enables fire and EMS staff to support one another while on a scene.

In 2017, the Thomas County Board of Commissioners initiated an ambitious program to cross-train firefighters and emergency medical personnel.

Thomas County was in the process of closing the 50-year-old county prison, to avoid the $8 million cost to build a new one. The prison closing would save the county $500,000 in general fund operating costs annually, but the county would be giving up the prison’s six-person Inmate Fire Detail. It was projected an additional 15 full-time firefighters would have been needed to replace the inmate firefighters at a projected cost of $525,000 in salary, benefits, and equipment.

To overcome the increased costs, the cross-training of existing emergency personnel became a priority, the county said in a press release. In fact, cross-trained emergency medical personnel on the scene would count as firefighters for fire insurance purposes, even if they did not actively participate in fire suppression functions. In 2016, Thomas County had a total of 74 Emergency Services positions. Of these, 33 were paramedic/EMTs and 41 were firefighters. Nine of the firefighters were cross-trained as paramedic/EMTs.

In the seven years since the cross-training project started, Emergency Services has made remarkable progress. Thomas County currently has a total of 82 Emergency Services positions: 63 of these positions are certified as paramedic/EMTs and 70 of these positions are certified as firefighters. Fifty-two positions are cross-trained. Fourteen other employees are in school and on track to be cross-trained. In addition, there are 47 part-time employees assisting the full-time staff, and 15 of them are cross-trained.

Another benefit to cross-training is the staging of ambulances in Ochlocknee and Boston. When the program started in 2017, all ambulances operated from the four stations located in and around Thomasville. Ambulance response times to Meigs could range upward to 30 minutes depending on traffic and weather conditions. Similar response times were experienced in other areas of the rural county. Without cross-training, it would require two firefighters and two paramedic/EMTs to staff these two stations for all three 24-hour shifts. By using cross-trained personnel, the work is provided with three employees at the same level of service, the county said. The nine extra positions required, using non-cross-trained personnel, would have amounted to an annual cost increase in salary and benefits alone of about $600,000.

The merger of EMS and Fire/Rescue and the associated cross-training has also proven successful. The 31 days in January amount to a total of 744 service hours shared by three 24-hour shifts, A, B, and C. Based on daily reports, ambulances were properly staffed with at least one paramedic and one EMT and in service in Ochlocknee and Boston for the following times. In January “A” shift worked 10 days or 240 hours; “B” shift worked 10 days or 240 hours; and “C” shift worked 11 days or 264 hours. Three 24-hour shifts worked at two stations for a total of 1,440 hours worked. Ambulances were properly staffed and in service for 1,323 hours or 91.8% of the time.

Due to this efficient service delivery system, several benefits stand out, the county said:

* Maintaining the high quality of facilities, equipment, and vehicles.

* Accelerated employee training program.

* Annual pay increases.

* Increased ambulance fee collections.

* No increase in Fire District or Emergency property taxes for 10 years.

County Manager Mike Stephenson observed, “It takes a high level of cooperation and teamwork to carry out this program throughout the year, 24 hours a day and 7 days a week. Emergency Services personnel have six staffed stations, five to seven ambulances, and 16 front-line fire engine pumpers to deploy each day. The department’s outstanding leaders, supervisors, and employees make this all possible. Their professionalism and dedication are without equal.”

(c)2024 Thomasville Times-Enterprise (Thomasville, Ga.)
Visit Thomasville Times-Enterprise (Thomasville, Ga.) at
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.