(WMC-TV) – Cuts are being made to Shelby County firefighters. Instead of four man engine companies, the county is cutting back to just three firefighters at each company to cut back on overtime.
Administrators say this policy will be implemented in instances of vacations or if a firefighter calls in sick.
Critics are concerned about safety.
The policy went into effect Thursday prompting many first responders to question whether Shelby County is in violation of federal safety regulations.
Shelby County Public Works Director Tom Needham calls it rescheduling but many firefighters say the Shelby County Fire Department lacks man power.
"We are rescheduling the personnel in a way that it will not affect the personnel nor the general public," said Needham.
The Federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration known as OSHA regulates a policy dubbed two-in/two-out.
As a safety precaution, OSHA requires fire personnel to work in teams with a minimum of two fire fighters inside a structure and two outside on standby to assist with rescues.
Action News 5's Jerica Phillips asked Director Needham if this violates OSHA policy.
Needham says in order to accommodate the two-in/two-out teams, a unit called the "med squad" will assist.
"A med squad is a two man crew that travels faster, and at any structural fire the mad squad will report at the same time that our three man crew gets there," he explained.
But in the instance a med squad is not available, what happens if a three man unit gets a call?
"On a structural fire, no one truck ever fights a structural fire, we always have more than one vehicle there," said Needham. "Then they can do two men in and two men out, we will never put our fire fighters at risk to fight a fire."
Needham says battalion chiefs will be in charge of scheduling the new three unit teams and med squads.
He says the safety of Shelby County residents and fire fighters are his top priority.
"It will not affect response time, the number of vehicles we have on the site, the number of fire fighters the number of fire stations will all stay the same," said Needham.
The Shelby County Fire Fighters Union president said he is scheduled to attend a Shelby County policy and procedures meeting on Friday.
He says afterwards, he plans to comment on further concerns he has with the new three man unit policy.