The Newnan Times-Herald

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Opinion

New fire department leadership deserves support


  • By The Newnan Times-Herald
  • |
  • Sep. 23, 2021 - 8:42 PM

Across the United States, numerous public safety agencies are battling staffing shortages.

Coweta County is certainly no exception.

Pressure from the COVID-19 pandemic and the growing population has Coweta County Fire Rescue working hard to expand recruiting efforts.

Coweta Fire Chief Robby Flanagan recently said the department currently has 29 positions open. The county’s proposed 2022 budget includes 27 additional positions.

During the pandemic, the county approved hazard pay and additional 2 week paycheck. In October 2021, a 3 percent market adjustment will also take effect.

Currently, our firefighters are working mandatory overtime like everyone else in the state and nation, but the only way to relieve stress is to create a positive place to work and build a positive team.

It’s a tough situation to be in.

New hires without experience must complete 20 weeks of EMT training and 16 weeks of fire training. The majority of the calls CCFR responds to are EMS calls.

The department's current recruit school will have nine graduates to fill positions in mid-October.

However, the recruit school will not start another new class until January 2022 because the department will be training new hires who have either only EMT training or only fire training to ensure they will have the required skill sets they need.

Add a pandemic to that, and you quickly understand what our county is currently up against.

It’s a tough spot to be in, but ongoing negativity against the department or county won’t help the recruitment situation.

Those who are doing all they can and more should be recognized for their efforts.

When morale is low, piling on rarely helps anything. These problems didn’t happen overnight and it’s silly to assume solutions should come any quicker.

Chief Flanagan has been a part of Coweta County Fire Rescue since 1996 and has worked his way up the ranks to become an EMT, paramedic, captain, special operations captain, battalion chief, shift commander and for the last three months, fire chief.

He’s also the first Coweta chief who worked his way up the ranks in the department since Dennis Hammond, who was chief from 1995 to 2008.

Our challenges won’t be solved overnight, but with 25 years of service to Coweta, we believe that Chief Flanagan is the ideal person to tackle the task.

While our department is facing tough challenges, we believe it is working steadily to recruit and continue providing quality emergency care for all Coweta residents.