Medina fire chief looks to change work schedule for firefighters with 24 hours on, 72 hours off

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 15 November 2022 at 12:30 pm

MEDINA – Fire Chief Matt Jackson said the department will be changing its work hours in January, going to 24 hours on duty with the next 72 hours off.

The 19 career firefighters currently work two 10-hour day shifts, followed by two 14-hour night shifts. Jackson said that schedule with the two consecutive nights disrupts their sleep patterns and takes a toll on their physical and mental health.

Fire departments and EMS providers have found the 24-hour shift with three days off allows personnel to have a better sleep routine and more personal time off, Jackson told the Village Board on Monday.

The change in schedule won’t result in any additional overtime costs for the village, he said.

“It will be good for the health and safety of firefighters” by allowing for more recovery time from an all-nighter, he said.

Jackson said it will make Medina Fire Department more attractive as a place to work.

“I think it’s beneficial and I’m tired of our guys leaving for other things,” he said. “If we commit to our employees, it gives a better chance they will commit to us.”

Trustee Owen Toale said the change should be negotiated as part of a new contract, with firefighters offering a concession to the village.

However, Toale said Jackson has the power to set the firefighters’ work schedules and he can make the change without the board’s endorsement.

Trustee Tim Elliott said he was concerned about firefighters, who also run the department’s ambulance services, providing emergency medical services when they are at the end of a 24-hour shift. He said it would seem those staff would be struggling with fatigue.

Jackson said he is confident the staff will be going strong throughout their shift. He expects they will be fresher than the current work schedules, which leave many sleep-deprived because their schedules aren’t consistent.

Trustee Marguerite Sherman said first responders are wired differently, and the adrenaline kicks in on late-night calls, whether they are volunteers or paid staff.

Elliott asked Jackson to consider some mandatory time off for someone who finishes a 24-hour shift. Jackson said he would look at how other departments handle required time off.