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Seven Hills hiring part-time firefighters to handle coronavirus pandemic

The Plain Dealer  Cleveland logo The Plain Dealer Cleveland 3/26/2020 By John Benson, cleveland.com
a large house: Seven Hills Fire Department. © John Benson/cleveland.com/cleveland.com/TNS Seven Hills Fire Department.

SEVEN HILLS, Ohio -- The coronavirus pandemic is forcing communities to take proactive approaches increasing manpower and changing protocol. That’s the case in Seven Hills, which is in the process of hiring five additional part-time firefighters/paramedics.

While Seven Hills Fire Chief Jamie Meklemburg was planning for new hires throughout the year in response to expected retirements, he said the pandemic expedited the need.

“With our firefighters being part-time employees, the vast majority of them are affiliated full-time with other cities,” said Meklemburg, who was appointed last month.

“With the possibility of firefighters being exposed in different cities throughout Northeast Ohio and being quarantined for some time, I felt that we needed to step up that process and add some staffing to help us get through the next few months.”

Because the positions are part-time, the new hires aren’t required to take a civil service test. Applicants can apply online.

Currently the Seven Hills Fire Department has 40 firefighters, the majority of whom work in the same capacity for other cities.

“In an emergency situation we’re aware that potentially our part-time firefighters first commitment must be to their full-time employers,” Seven Hill Mayor Anthony D. Biasiotta said.

“Understanding that this could become an issue if our first responders come in contact with COVID-19, whether through Seven Hills or working in other cities, we could be facing a shortage of firefighters. This is a risk of all fire departments, but particularly Seven Hills.”

Another potential concern regarding manpower involved other communities prohibiting full-time firefighters from working part-time positions. After learning of the possibility, both Biasiotta and Meklemburg reached out to the respective Northeast Ohio mayors to explain Seven Hills’ situation. Both agreed not to enforce such a policy.

In reaction to the coronavirus pandemic, Seven Hills Fire Department two weeks ago changed protocol regarding potential COVID-19 runs and the use of multiple vehicles.

“The hope is that we can clear one of the firefighters from the front-line ambulance without having them exposed to this virus,” Meklemburg said. “Aside from our top priority of caring for our patients, we also need to do everything in our power to take care of our first responders.

“No matter how careful we are, our responders are going to be on the frontlines of this for several months and have a very high chance of coming in contact with a person with COVID-19. If we can add measures in our everyday response that will help us try and avoid some of these situations, I thought it would be worth trying.”

So far the change in policy has been working with Biasiotta noting the department has enough personal protection equipment stocked with residents notifying dispatch about any risks.

“We’re being proactive to ensure the residents are safe, as well as our first responders,” Biasiotta said. “It’s a reciprocal relationship. This is a reminder for residents experiencing any signs or symptoms of COVID-19 -- runny nose, sore throat, cough, fever, difficulty breathing -- to please self-quarantine and avoid public gatherings.

“If your symptoms get to a point where you need to go to the hospital, please let dispatch know you’re experiencing symptoms so our EMS personnel can be prepared with proper clothing and equipment.”

Read more news from the Parma Sun Post here.

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