N.C. County Splits EMS, Fire Director Responsibilities

March 13, 2013
The position of EMS director/fire marshal in Polk County will now be split after the county commissioners agreed there are more duties than one person can handle.

Polk County Commissioners agreed to split the current joint position of EMS director/fire marshal and emergency management director saying the duties of the combined positions have become too much for one person to handle.

Commissioners met March 4 and agreed to split the positions by a 4-1 vote. Commissioner Ray Gasperson voted against the split, saying the decision could have great merit but he wants to ensure the right agenda is driving the decision. He asked to table the vote to do further research.

The positions will be split into two, with the EMS director and a combined emergency management/fire marshal position. Sandra Halford currently does all duties and will resume one of the two positions.

Commissioner Keith Holbert said the split is being made for the welfare of the county.

Interim Polk County Manager Marche Pittman said the decision was made because the duties are becoming too overwhelming for one person. He said fire marshal duties are becoming so much more important in the county and so are emergency management duties.

“As good of a job as Halford has done (handling all three positions), it’s becoming overwhelming for one person to handle,” Pittman said.

The EMS director manages the EMS department including managing personnel, equipment, legal issues, developing relationships and contracts with other emergency medical and rescue providers, developing and managing the EMS budget and developing long range plans for the department, according to the county’s job description. The EMS director also supervises and provides basic life support at the paramedic level.

The emergency management director/fire marshal will plan, organize and coordinate the emergency management and fire marshal activities, response to hazardous materials incidents, weather emergency response or other disaster planning and response for the county. Work involves coordination with a wide variety of emergency service providers, state agencies and local emergency support departments and agencies. The emergency management director will develop plans for preparedness, mitigation, response and recovery of all types of man-made or natural disasters, including national security, nuclear plant, weather, hazardous material spills and others, according to the county’s job description.

The emergency management director/fire marshal will also review plans for commercial permits and applications, conduct periodic fire and safety inspections and provide fire prevention education and assist in developing emergency action procedures for county agencies and businesses.

The split will likely mean an increase to next year’s budget by adding another employee to handle the duties.

During citizen comments, Marilyn Horne, director of safety and emergency management at Pardee Hospital in Hendersonville, who lives in Green Creek, said commissioners should take their time, do their research and build the emergency management program right.

“Before you act to develop new positions, I challenge this committee to research what a functional county emergency management program looks like and commit to working toward a system that will work for the betterment of Polk County,” Horne said. “You need to take your time and build this program right. This won’t happen overnight but within two to five years a strong emergency management system could be accomplished.”

She suggested Polk visit the emergency management directors in Henderson and Transylvania counties and advised commissioners to recruit a qualified person. She also included a graph of how emergency management should be prioritized in the county including that the emergency management director work under the county manager at an estimated salary of $60,000 to $85,000 per year, based on salary suggestions for counties the size of Polk. According to Horne’s graph, the fire marshal’s salary should be between $40,000 and $55,000 per year and the EMS director’s salary should be between $60,000 and $70,000 per year, with both the EMS director and fire marshal working under the emergency management director.

Job descriptions approved by commissioners call for the EMS director to possess a degree from a four-year college or university with a major in a medically related field and considerable supervisory experience; or an equivalent combination of education and experience as well as the special requirement of certification from the state of North Carolina as an emergency medical technician at the paramedic level.

The emergency medical director/fire marshal’s desired education and experience includes graduation from a community college or technical school with a two-year degree in law enforcement, fire science, business, electronics or related field and considerable related emergency services experience; or an equivalent combination of education and experience as well as the special requirement of the ability to obtain North Carolina Emergency Management certification at required level (at the county manager’s discretion) within two years of employment. Special requirements also include the possession and completion of firefighter I and II probationary certificates (within two years of hire date) and level III fire inspector certification (within three years of hire date), according to the county’s job description.

Copyright 2013 The Tryon Daily BulletinDistributed by Newsbank, Inc. All Rights Reserved

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