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COLUMBUS should come to be appreciably safer next year as the fire department’s corps of trained paramedics will dramatically increase thanks to a significant addition to the budget for training purposes.
Columbus Mayor Kristen Brown proposed and the City Council approved an additional $300,000 for the department’s budget next year, which will fund the training for 10 firefighters seeking certification as paramedics.
The city already has 18 trained paramedics on duty, and with the additions, each of the six fire engines in the city will be staffed with a paramedic at all times.
This step, however, is about much more than filling out fire crews. It also provides local residents with an added measure of safety in that each engine responding to an emergency will be staffed by at least one trained paramedic who can immediately provide certain advanced forms of treatment to a sick or injured person that otherwise might have to be delayed until arrival of a Columbus Regional Hospital ambulance on the scene.
All of the 94 firefighters on the department have been trained as emergency medical technicians and have the capability and authority to provide basic first aid. However, paramedics can also administer medicine, use diagnostic tools and perform more involved procedures. Each of the six engines is also equipped with advanced life support equipment.
The addition of these paramedics will give the city another layer of protection in emergency situations. Columbus Regional Hospital has four ambulances dedicated to emergency situations, but they also have to cover all of Bartholomew County. In emergencies within city limits, it is often the fire engine that arrives first on the scene, thus the importance of the paramedics who can immediately begin administering certain forms of assistance instead of waiting.
Over the long term, fire department officials plan to add more paramedics to the crews, eventually reaching a point at which half of the department has paramedic training.
Although the required training process can be arduous and time-consuming, the department has provided its firefighters with incentives to become paramedics. Each firefighter/paramedic will receive an additional $3,000 in annual pay, effective next year, a $500 increase over the current allotment.
There is an added bonus from an individual perspective in that the training and eventual certification could increase their marketability in the event of a retirement or a desire to change careers.
Those incentives aside, the greatest beneficiaries of this move are the people of Columbus.
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