Liberty Township: 10 new firefighter/paramedics to start in November
Ten new firefighter-paramedics are being added to the Liberty Township Fire Department staff.
Township trustees approved the hiring of the new full-time firefighters Oct. 5.
Six of the new firefighter-paramedics were hired with the support of a Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The $1.95 million grant will fully fund salaries and benefits for the positions for three years, according to township officials.
Three additional hires were recommended by fire Chief Tom O’Brien, and one would replace a department staffer who has retired.
“We were beginning the process for hiring the six for the grant and reevaluated our long-term plans and fiscal outlook, and I asked to add the other three,” O’Brien said.
“With the enormous growth in Liberty Township and Powell, it is imperative that we keep up with our safety-service demand to ensure the well-being of our residents,” trustee Shyra Eichhorn said. “This board will continue to be fiscally responsible and provide outstanding township fire-based EMS that our residents want, support and expect.”
The new positions, along with the addition of four new firefighters earlier in the year, help bring staffing in line with a growing population, Eichhorn said.
“In 2010, we had a population of 26,172, with 52 full-time LTFD staff that serviced 2,124 runs. In 2019, we jumped to a population of 31,802, with only 42 full-time with 2,921 runs,” she said.
O’Brien confirmed those run counts.
“This will take us closer to ideal staffing,” he said. “We need to be able to assemble 14 personnel within an 8-minute timeframe on reported fires. A total of 21 firefighters are needed for a working fire in a 2,000- to 2,200-square-foot structure in 12 minutes. This also will allow us to have more response capability for multiple calls, which happens over 25% of the time.”
Eichhorn pointed to the November 2017 approval of the township fire levy, which was approved with 75% of the vote, as evidence that residents support this level of service. She said the SAFER grant is one way the trustees are finding ways to fund township operations while stretching taxpayer dollars.
“Over my seven years of service on the board of trustees, Liberty Township residents have sent a clear message that they expect excellent local and safety-service delivery, using creative funding mechanisms,” Eichhorn said. “This is an example of the fire department rising to that mandate and improving service for our residents.”
The SAFER grant program was created to provide funds directly to fire departments and volunteer firefighter-interest organizations to help them increase or maintain the number of trained “front line” firefighters available in their communities, according to FEMA’s website.
O’Brien said an important consideration in applying for the SAFER grant was the belief that the township would be able to retain the services of the added staff beyond the three years covered by the grant.
“It was the key to the conversation, being able to see the sustainability to maintain this new staff with the revenue streams we have,” O’Brien said.
“We have been budgeting to move toward that level of staffing, but here we get to start it with $1.9 million of federal tax dollars,” township fiscal officer Rick Karr said.
Both Eichhorn and O’Brien said hiring staff trained as both firefighters and paramedics allows the department to provide the best service to residents.
“Utilizing cross-trained, multi-role firefighter-paramedics produces the highest level of EMS delivery, the most efficient use of resources and the most beneficial system for employees, management and, most importantly, the public,” O'Brien said. “When everyone is a firefighter, as well as a paramedic, there is continuity of administration and the same medical direction, operating procedures, training, quality-assurance processes, equipment and incident command system, which all results in continuity of care.”
The new firefighter/paramedics will be sworn in Nov. 9.