Joliet requires new firefighters to be certified paramedics
BY BOB OKON firstname.lastname@example.org February 5, 2013 9:48PM
The new Joliet Fire Department's Station 3 on Laraway Road Monday, March 19, 2012. | Brett Roseman~Sun-Times Media
Updated: March 7, 2013 10:13AM
Joliet firefighters in the future will have to be certified paramedics when they’re hired.
The city council on Tuesday approved the paramedic requirement while also giving preference points to Joliet residents and military veterans in future fire department hiring.
Paramedic certification was put in place to save training costs but also reflects a trend, Fire Chief Joseph Formhals said.
“It’s like hiring a teacher. You don’t hire someone and then send them to school,” he said.
But that’s typically what Joliet and other fire departments have done in the past, Formhals said.
Paramedic certification can take 18 months and cost the department $40,000 per person, including the overtime expense of covering shifts for firefighters on days when they’re in school, the chief said.
He said Joliet will continue to send newly hired firefighters to the fire academy, but that’s a 10-week process that costs about $2,500 per trainee.
The new hiring standard also reflects the bigger role that emergency medical care has in a firefighter’s job.
Ambulance calls outnumber fire calls about 4-to-1 in Joliet, and all but a few of the city’s 206 firefighters are paramedics, Formhals said.
He noted that paramedic training is more available than in past years and that even high school students can begin taking classes in the field.
The preference points for Joliet residents was put in place partially to encourage the city’s high school students to consider firefighting careers, Councilman John Gerl, chairman of the council’s public safety committee, said.
“A lot of times these kind of opportunities escape our young people,” Gerl said.
The fire department is considering an Explorer program, which many other departments have. Explorer programs bring in students as young as 14 to spend time with firefighters and learn some of the skills of the profession.