OCFD taking steps to tackle staffing problems

OCEAN CITY, Md.- A three fold problem has caused the Ocean City Fire Department to develop a staffing plan, and recently, the department met with the Mayor and Council to have that proposed plan approved.

“It was very apparent that we needed to do something immediately,”  Chief Richard Bowers, for the OCFD, said.

“We are hoping to add 18 positions this year through the SAFER grant and it’s a federal program that’s administered through FEMA that basically pay for personnel for three years,” Assistant Chief Eric Peterson, for the OCFD, said.

We are told back in October 2021, the department met with resort leaders talking about the challenges with staffing. From that, the Council and Mayor wanted the department to come up with a comprehensive staffing plan.

“What we will be able to do is staff additional unit for this year, but we will also have relief positions built into that so we won’t be as reliant upon overtime and part-time staff,” Assistant Chief Peterson said.

“One is the part-time challenges we are having with part-time personnel, showing up, not because they don’t want to show up but because their full-time job is holding them,” Chief Bowers said.

And, with those part time issues we’re told that means other staff members have to tack on overtime.

“It is a very big burden and it’s also something that we have been given direction that we need to reduce and that’s why we have the support of the Mayor and council I believe,” Assistant Chief Peterson said.

But, that’s not the only uphill battle for the department.

“The second is COVID highlighted some of these issues, and then third we need increase units in service, but we don’t have the number of people that we need,” Chief Bowers said.

The department has faith their plan will address the immediate situation, but know the process to tackle these issues will be ongoing.

“We are going to have to reevaluate, we need to look at the return on investment, we need to continue to analyze, provide data and we need to also strategize over the next 5 to 10 years where to do we need to be,” Chief Bowers said.

The plan includes both career and volunteer staffing requirements and requests. The department is hoping by the end of May they will have everything submitted and approved.

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