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Cleveland Fire, EMS merger continues

Originally announced in 2010, the merger will eventually lead to a single Division of Fire, Rescue and Emergency Medical Service

Updated June 2015

As part of a merger between Cleveland’s Fire and EMS departments, starting in February, ambulance crews began operating out of some fire stations, while firefighter-paramedics (instead of firefighter-EMTs) were assigned to some trucks. Originally announced in 2010, the merger will eventually lead to a single Division of Fire, Rescue and Emergency Medical Service.

The changes continue a tumultuous period for the fire department. In 2011 and 2012, a series of city audits uncovered numerous payroll abuses, including some firefighters “illegally selling their shifts to colleagues” to have enough time off to have second careers, according to the Cleveland Plain Dealer. (Second jobs are permitted with some restrictions, including that firefighters work less than 20 hours a week in the second job and that they don’t call in sick so they can work elsewhere.) After the retirement of Chief Paul Stubbs in April 2012, the city swore in a new fire chief, Daryl McGinnis, in January 2013. According to the newspaper, McGinnis was one of multiple African-American firefighters who sued the department a decade ago for racial bias in promotional practices.

McGinnis told reporters that he reported the payroll abuses. “You could see an abuse and blow the whistle, but then your boss doesn’t want to address it,” McGinnis said. “I raised the issue in meetings and said, ‘When are we going to put a stop to this stuff?’ But it starts and ends with the fire chief. You can have people in the chain of command who are as upset and appalled as the average citizen. But you cannot be tougher than your boss.”

Best Practices: Offering fire safety assessments on non-transport calls

Instead of packing up and leaving after EMS calls that don’t result in transport, Jon Olson, operations chief for Wake County EMS in Raleigh, N.C., suggests conducting a brief fire safety assessment. That includes making sure the home has working fire detectors, that space heaters are being used properly, that every member of the household knows to call 911 in case of emergency, and that there are no other obvious fire hazards in garages, kitchens and elsewhere.

In a research paper written as part of his participation in the National Fire Academy’s Executive Fire Officer Program, Olson recommends training EMS personnel to conduct the assessment and then working with fire departments to make sure problem areas get fixed. Olson is still working on getting his plan implemented in Wake County.

Go here to read Olson’s paper, including suggestions for fire safety assessment checklists that EMS providers can use.

Produced in partnership with NEMSMA, Paramedic Chief: Best Practices for the Progressive EMS Leader provides the latest research and most relevant leadership advice to EMS managers and executives. From emerging trends to analysis and insight, practical case studies to leadership development advice, Paramedic Chief is packed with useful, valuable ideas you simply can’t get anywhere else.