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Harford public safety panel tightens rules for fire, EMS training

Harford County's new public safety commission approved a controversial recommendation at its meeting Thursday to end grand fathering of training for first responders, deciding to set up a peer review system instead.

Firefighters would be required to complete the necessary training in two years, and emergency medical personnel would be required to complete it in four. More senior fire and EMS personnel would have to meet the same training standards.

The bottom line is, we do feel this is a small number of people," subcommittee member Russell Strickland said about those whom the decision affects.

"It's not like there are hordes, hundreds of people, who are getting caught in not having Officer 1 and Officer 2 [training requirements], and that [for] those who want to continue, who would have been accepted [under grand fathering], we set up some kind of review… and attempt to correlate that to Fire Officer 1 and Fire Officer 2 standards," Strickland, who is the county's director of emergency operations, said.

The commission also approved a number of recommendations regarding personnel training standards, including enforcement standards, that were originally made by the county's fire study.

Commission member and Bel Air Fire Chief Eddie Hopkins wondered what would happen if the county government eventually balks at the idea of a peer review.

"I actually happen to like the grand fathering process," he said, noting that in five years, the issue will probably be moot because it mostly addresses older first responders who probably won't be active by then.

"I just want to protect that small contingent of firefighters that have been there 25 or 30 years and are still very active," Hopkins added.

As commission members previously expressed interest in having more communication with the county, government spokesman Bob Thomas was present at Thursday's meeting, which was held at the county Emergency Operations Center in Hickory. Thomas is a former deputy state fire marshal.

Commission head Tony Bennett also said the issue of a temporary moratorium on purchases of new fleet apparatus has been discussed extensively with Harford County Executive David Craig's office.

He said a meeting will be held Monday with Craig on the topic.

A fleet purchase oversight committee was also set up Thursday.

Susquehanna's Hose Company's Steve Gamatoria said the apparatus subcommittee is recommending reviewing current standards, developing standards where gaps exist, requiring that the Harford County standards committee use a logical and sensible approach, using a global focus when developing standards and requiring all to have a formal review requirement.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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