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City Council Approves Fire Department Schedule Changes

The Columbia Fire Department is changing up its shift schedule.

Columbia City Council signed off on a collective bargaining agreement with the Columbia Professional Firefighters on Tuesday.

The agreement, which goes into effect on October 1, includes a one-year trial of a 48-hour shift followed by 96 consecutive hours off duty work schedule for firefighters currently working 56 hours per week.

Local firefighter’s union representative TJ O’Brien says that it’s not much different from what other stations have been doing for a while, and that the shift to 48/96 places a stronger emphasis on first responder health and safety.

“The current schedule we’re on, based on sleep studies, is actually the worst for sleep studies," O'Brien said. "And the reason is, in order to replenish a sleep debt when you’re up all night running calls, it actually takes three consecutive good nights of sleep before you replenish that problem.”

For O’Brien, the biggest road block to getting through to the city and the union was education on something that’s new and different.

“We’re so successful in what we do and our personnel overcomes and adapts any complication, it’s not always known that the sleep problem is already an issue,” O’Brien said.

The new shift trial run is set to start February 20 next year.

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