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Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service Makes Service Adjustments as COVID Cases Increase Among Staff

For Immediate Release: Tuesday, December 28, 2021

The Montgomery County Fire and Recuse Service (MCFRS) today announced that the Omicron variant of COVID-19 is beginning to create staffing challenges for the department. Currently, 110 career and 23 volunteer personnel are unable to report to work, in addition to approximately 75 MCFRS staff who are unable to report to work due to other occupational health issues or injuries. As a result, the department is experiencing a 9 percent reduction in staff that will require some adjustments to meet service demands.

In an effort to continue providing high-quality emergency services to the community, MCFRS has taken the following steps:

  • Added recently graduated firefighters, all who came to MCFRS with firefighter and EMT experience, to full shifts, which will augment daily staffing.  
  • Reassigned firefighters and paramedics currently in training to their community service responsibilities.
  • Created an EMS “disposition officer” (EMS700) to ensure load balancing at the local emergency departments
  • Requested volunteer partners to staff additional peak time transport units, adding additional transport capacity to the system.
  • Prioritized Advanced Life Support care delivery and firefighting water delivery across the County.
  • Temporarily redeployed staff from one ladder truck (the Clarksburg Aerial Tower) and one heavy rescue unit (the Laytonsville Rescue Squad).

These services were selected due to a lower number of calls for service compared to the rest of the County. The unit adjustments will take place daily as staffing is evaluated and will remain in-service if staffing permits.

“The recent surge in COVID cases has affected everyone including our front line first responders and those critical to our public’s health and safety,” said County Executive Marc Elrich. “The staffing shortages we are seeing are putting a strain on our emergency response operations. The steps MCFRS is taking will enable extra personnel to fill critical gaps elsewhere without completely removing service from any stations. I want to thank MCFRS for these prudent decisions, wish all sick and isolating employees a speedy recovery, and recognize the hard work of all our firefighters and paramedics during these challenging times. I also encourage all residents to be aware of these staffing shortages and remember to only call or use 9-1-1 services in emergency situations.”

“All the adjustments that MCFRS has and will implement are designed to minimize the impact of staff reductions due to COVID-19 and enable the department to return to normal operations as staff becomes available,” said MCFRS Chief Scott Goldstein. “Let me be clear, MCFRS will maintain Advanced Life Support  care delivery and the ability to deliver water to burning surfaces to stop the spread of fires. However, we do need our residents and visitors to be aware of the challenges we are facing, and we appreciate their patience, cooperation, and support during these difficult times.”

MCFRS is recommending the following suggestions and tips to the public to help response times and emergency efforts:

  • Only use 9-1-1 for emergency situations.
  • If you're eligible, please get vaccinated and/or boosted to reduce the threat of severe COVID symptoms. As of last week, 9 percent of unvaccinated Marylanders have accounted for 75 percent of COVID hospitalizations.  
  • Please be patient and understand that the hospitals are currently handling a lot of patients and are backed up. These delays at the hospitals also impact EMS transport services response times, which is why these services should be used for dire emergencies only.   

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Release ID: 21-1025
Media Contact: Peter Piringer 240-672-4871
Categories: COVID-19, Public Safety