County Executive Ken Ulman this month announced changes to the Protective Service Contingent program that employs firefighter and EMS personnel on an hourly basis to help staff stations when additional personnel are needed.
Under the changes, contingent personnel must now complete the same hiring steps that any entry-level Howard County career firefighter/EMS employee completes, including an entrance examination, an agility test, criminal background check and physical examination as recommended by National Fire Protection Association standards.
Additionally, he said, contingents must meet and maintain the same licensing and training requirements of a new hire.
Fire and EMS Chief William Goddard said contingent firefighters need to meet the same requirements as other personnel “so they too can safely provide the best service possible to Howard County residents.”
Ulman said the changes are meant to answer concerns from some firefighters and community members that the contingent program could be phased out.
“We listened to those who said we needed to keep the contingent program, and these changes will make sure that we are in the best shape to do so going forward,” Ulman said.
An online application period for the contingent program opened last week.
Ulman also announced changes in the county’s benefit package for volunteer firefighters and emergency medical service personnel, adding a new “Length of Service Award” program.
He said a key aspect of the proposal — which must go before the County Council — is an adjustment in monthly benefits, which will be set at 1 percent of current starting salary of a firefighter trainee. For eligible volunteer personnel with 25 years of service who reach the age of 50, the measure would give $460 per month, for life.
County officials said currently, there are nearly 90 volunteers who have contributed more than 25 years of service. Ulman said the improved benefits will compensate volunteer personnel for long-standing service.
Volunteers may also be eligible for an additional $10 per month for each year of service over 25 years, provided they continues to meet training requirements and remain an active member.
In addition, families of eligible volunteers would also receive a one-time death benefit, and six months of survivor benefits.
Ulman’s office said the program will be presented to the council for approval later this month.