A group of current and former firefighters in Gwinnett County, Georgia, have begun a grassroots campaign attempting to raise community awareness about mandatory overtime. The group, which is led by a retired firefighter claims excessive overtime in the Gwinnett County Fire and Emergency Services Department is costing the county millions of dollars while jeopardizing the safety of both firefighters and residents. The group has purchased advertising on a local highway billboard to get the message out.
Firefighters are required to select 9 overtime shifts per year. If there are still vacancies after this initial selection; the county then mandates firefighters to fill in on additional overtime shifts. The firefighter group points out that it is not uncommon to have one in five firefighters on overtime any given day. Overtime requirements have many firefighters’ regularly working 48 hour shifts.
County fire officials counter that mandatory overtime is a “rare occurrence” and that the county has a plan to slowly reduce overtime in the near future. Administrators also point out there are 116 firefighter recruits in the current academy that will help fill vacancies, however they are not all expected to be on the trucks until mid-2019.
There are numerous causes for the firefighter shortage, however the group cites new training requirements and county growth as the root causes. New training standards require firefighters receive paramedic certification during the fire academy. This requirement has added significant time to the training academy. Additionally, the county has added several medic units and a new station in the past several years which has also added to the firefighter shortage.
Here is more from WSB-TV2 in Atlanta