Thursday, 23 August 2012 by Grayson Edds
Three local firefighters graduate in early August from paramedic training, the highest medical qualification available. From fire academy through to paramedic training, these dedicated firefighters have endured several years of training from start to finish, the last year of which has been done in their spare time while employed full time at the fire department.
According to Belton Fire Chief Francisco Corona, adding additional medics will help relieve the strain the department feels when their current staff goes out on training, stays home on medical leave or uses their vacation days. The department also offers two major incentives, he said, for the firefighters to complete training: the City of Belton covers a portion of the tuition expenses, plus about $8,000 on top of regular pay annually.
Firefighter Matthew Mull, 28, graduates Aug. 7 from a unique online program at Hill College while James McGowan, 21, and Clayton Postert, 32, both graduate from traditional paramedic training Aug. 10 from Central Texas College.
Paramedic training takes nine months to a year to complete, the only major difference in the training being that Mull was able to complete most of his coursework from home and only spent one week a semester in Hillsboro to complete his hands-on training. McGowan and Postert used their days off from the department doing online homework, in-class lectures, lab days, and clinical hours.
"Texas firefighters have to be EMT Techs, trained in CPR," said McGowan. "As a paramedic, we can work on the ambulance and are able to perform the highest quality care. Almost everything done in the ER we can do on the way, like full range of medicines, IVs, coding and defibrillation."
No matter how they complete their training, it's a benefit to the community and required personal sacrifice from the men and their families. The youngest of them, McGowan, chose to take time away from his family in the Round Rock area in order to complete the training. Mull and his wife were equally busy during the past year, his wife attending her senior year in an MBA program at UMHB. Postert's wife works in the ER in Scott and White and the couple have an infant, adding the effect of being a single parent for each of them, he said.
"The main thing is," said Chief Corona, "in Belton about 70 percent of calls are medical. Working together we can fill this need. It's good for the citizens of Belton, and it's good for the first responders."
It's because of the new fire prevention practices and protocols in buildings that there are fewer fires than medical calls, and also the reason firefighters are cross-trained in the medical field, said McGowan.
Regardless of their EMT qualification, all firefighters must attend continuing education every four years to maintain their certification and to keep abreast of the advancements in the medical field.
"Because of the support of their families and the support we provide for them, these individuals can concentrate on training," said Corona. "I just feel safe knowing that if I ever need anything or my family needs anything that these kinds of medics are out there."