Behind the frontline: emergency services administrators on supporting our first responders

Behind the frontline: emergency services  administrators on supporting our first responders
Sherri Zabiere

By Haldimand Press Staff

While paramedics, firefighters, and police officers run into the field to handle emergencies, there is a backend line of support ensuring first responders have what they need to do their work.

Sherri Zebiere of Caledonia has been the Paramedic Scheduler and Division Support for Haldimand County Emergency Services for seven years now. 

“As the Paramedic Scheduler, each day starts with verifying that our paramedics have each base covered throughout the county and that there were no issues the previous night,” explained Zebiere, noting that the Province mandates the required number of paramedics in ambulances 24 hours a day.

She continued, “During COVID the scheduling has been even more busy than usual because I have paramedics working in many areas of the community, not just at the ambulance bases. They have really stepped up to help with things, such as community paramedicine, vaccination clinics, and at the health unit to assist with appointments and the extreme influx of calls from the community.”

Zebiere also takes care of paperwork like staff payroll and paying invoices for paramedic services, fire services, and costs related to professional development. These things may seem little, but Zebiere knows every bit helps to making a first responder’s day smoother: “My favourite part of the job is being there to support our paramedics with whatever they need, and make things a little easier for them. It’s nice to have an opportunity to speak with them, be someone they can discuss anything with, and hopefully make them feel good about their day.”

On the most difficult part of her job, Zebiere explained, “We have a great team here, but due to the nature of the calls some days can be difficult. We all feel it when anyone in the community has tragedy happen.”

Zebiere was prepared to face these challenges though, having been raised in a military family and having worked as a civilian previously at two military bases. She added, “Fast-paced, high-stress, joy-to-tragedy type situations have been a way of life for us. I like being there to support our emergency workers.”

“We are lucky to have such an amazing group of paramedics in our county!” concluded Zebiere, who is happy to support Haldimand’s paramedics. “I think it’s important for our paramedics to be secure with their support staff, to have the feel-good calls celebrated, comfort after the difficult calls, and truly feel support is here and accessible to them, whatever they need.”

Fire Services has a separate division support worker, although the position was vacant and in the process of being filled as of publication. Haldimand OPP detachment also has employees working to support the frontline officers. One such employee, who provided their statement under the condition of anonymity, explained of their usual day: “Every day for every civilian member is a multi-tasking juggling feat – a myriad of operational and administrative duties and deadlines, all the while assisting members of the public – by telephone/emails/in person – as well as assisting the uniformed officers.”

They continued, “The policing environment is fast-paced, interesting, and multi-faceted, as are the detachment administrative duties. It’s also very rewarding to serve the public, assist officers, and be a part of the foundation that keeps a detachment running smoothly and efficiently.” 

The employee likened the work and expectations to an office setting, but added, “What makes these positions somewhat unique is being a part of the policing environment/culture. Although civilians are not physically ‘out in the trenches’ as with frontline policing, the impact of many incidents has a definite fallout and/or detrimental effect on the entire workplace, civilians included.”

They said that many use the civilian administrative positions with the OPP as a “stepping stone” to becoming a uniformed officer in the future, while others are drawn to the security of the position.

They concluded, “There is a general sense of pride for not only doing one’s own ‘personal best’, but to also do everything possible to make the detachment as efficient as possible.”

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