As a way to address the shortage of emergency medical technicians and paramedics, classes are being offered to firefighters in Meridian.
The basic EMT skills class is made possible through a partnership among the City of Meridian, Metro Ambulance, Meridian Community College Foundation and Anderson Hospital.
The course, which kicked off its first session Tuesday at Central Fire Station 1 in Meridian, will be held from 4-9 p.m. each Tuesday through February 2020.
Clayton Cobler, Lauderdale County Coroner and director of Metro Ambulance, said Meridian Fire Chief Ricky Leister reached out to Metro about offering the classes.
Cobler said firefighters trained as EMTs can help at a scene, delivering aid before ambulances arrive. The course aims to "get as many people trained as soon as possible,” Cobler said.
Leister said that over the last couple of years, firefighters have been taking more EMS calls than fire calls.
Leister said firefighters are currently trained in basic medical care, but these classes offer more advanced care.
"In order to accomplish our mission, we have to step it up a level," Leister said.
The partnership also allows some firefighters to work part-time with Metro so they can get hands-on EMT training.
Meridian firefighter Jonathan Chiriche signed up for the classes to upgrade his capabilities as a first responder.
He hopes to get "more medical skills and how to handle a scene" out of the class.
Shannon Mathis, who has been with the fire department for a decade, said he likes the convenience of the classes, as he holds a second job as a pastor.
"This is the first time that it's been offered in an easy and convenient matter for us," Mathis said. "You always had to do it on our own time."
Like Chiriche, he hopes the course improves skills as a first responder.
"We do a lot of accidents with injuries, so it's something that I need to be better prepared for the job that I do," Mathis said.