Katy Plans to Begin Construction on New Fire Station by April

29 12 2014

Katy city officials are preparing to sell bonds to pay for a new fire station (as seen in accompanying artist’s rendering) to serve residents and businesses south of Interstate 10. Voters approved a $5 million bond proposal in November to pay for capital improvements, including a new fire station.

New Katy Fire Station

The new facility will feature three apparatus bays and an additional apparatus area, dormitory for fire and emergency medical services personnel, a kitchen, dining room and living area, a fitness and exercise room and a training tower, noted City Administrator Byron Hebert.

Construction on the city’s second fire station should begin in March or April, Hebert said. The timing is right to sell bonds as interest rates are low and the city’s credit rating was just upgraded, Hebert noted.

Competition Intense for Suburban Emergency Service Providers

24 12 2014

The following article was written by Jayme Fraser, and published by the Houston Chronicle on December 16, 2014.

FBC EMS patch

Competition Intense for Suburban Emergency Service Providers

Rapid growth and a changing health care market have increased competition among some suburban emergency service providers, driving up starting wages and challenging Fort Bend County and other communities to fill vacancies.

“We’ve had an unusual number of openings,” said Daniel Kosler, Fort Bend County’s director of emergency medical services.

Of the 76 paramedic positions budgeted for 2015, he had as many as 15 positions open at any one time. He said it drove up overtime spending, left the county unable to deploy some units and made it difficult for the remaining paramedics to use vacation time.

County commissioners on Tuesday approved a one-time exception allowing paramedic employees to exceed a cap on the number of vacation hours they carry over to the new year. One employee will start January with more than 300 vacation hours, almost twice the county’s limit.

Demand for health care workers, including paramedics, has been rising around the nation. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that the number of jobs for emergency medical technicians and paramedics will increase 26 percent between 2012 and 2022, more than double the rate across all industries. In the last five years, Texas has seen median wages for those positions rise 10 percent, more than the national average of 4 percent, based on federal statistics.

Although local governments have employed a third or more of EMTs and paramedics for decades, the expanding health care industry will shrink that share, the bureau predicted.

Dr. Richard Bradley questioned the federal bureau’s projections, noting that EMTs and paramedics serve different health care roles and attract different people. EMT certifications require less training, which limits what they’re authorized to do for patients. Paramedics build on EMT education to perform more advanced kinds of emergency medical care and make critical care decisions faster in high-risk environments. Bradley said few who push through the intense two-year paramedic training do so to be employed as an EMT transferring patients between hospitals rather than as a paramedic rushing to the scenes of accidents.

“The 911 jobs are what every paramedic wants to do,” said Bradley, who worked as a paramedic and firefighter before becoming a doctor and the University of Texas Health Science Center’s chief of emergency medical services and disaster medicine. “You don’t see many paramedics leaving a government job for a private sector job.”

Harris County Emergency Corps. also reported a slowdown in applications received for recent openings. Marketing Director Abbey Lee attributed the shift to changing qualifications and on-the-job expectations that have limited the number of people who complete training.

“The paramedic role is in a period of transition from vocation to profession,” she said. “Education requirements to become a licensed paramedic have changed in the last decade, making the paramedic role not as achievable as it once was.”

In part because the jobs are more demanding and often require specialized skills, government employers on average pay paramedics and EMTs more than many private-sector businesses do, according to federal labor statistics from May 2013. Average wages by employer type ranged from $9 to $26 an hour.

The Houston region’s growth could push salaries even higher, Bradley said.

“A lot of our outlying neighborhoods are growing so quickly we’re seeing an increase in the number of ambulances that have to be available to answer 911 calls,” he said.

He has heard reports from Houston EMS providers that they are losing employees to positions elsewhere that pay more and have better schedules.

Lee reported that the rise of combined Fire-EMS departments also has increased job competition.

Kosler agreed those factors contributed to Fort Bend’s slew of vacancies, as well as a handful of retirements. He expects that a job fair held Monday helped fill some open positions, but not all.

Kosler warned that retention problems likely will remain unless the commissioners court approves recommendations he plans to make in January, including pay increases to make the county more competitive with other EMS services.

“To be competitive,” he said, “you have to be in the marketplace.”

Practice makes perfect………….

17 12 2014

Pulling Trailer Out of Parking BayMVDR 1

In 2012, the Fort Bend County Office of Emergency Management purchased two trailers designed to deploy during times of emergency. OEM’s two Mobile Voice and Data Redundancy (MVDR) trailers will provide critical voice and data redundancy to the County EOC and other county buildings, allowing the EOC and the government operations to function in a complete data outage.

This original purchase of the MVDR trailers enhanced savings by utilizing trailers, since facilities can have connectivity without fixed satellite or cellular backup systems. This project provides data for our seat of government and our EOC simultaneously in the event of connectivity loss by either natural or man-made causes. OEM is able to consolidate equipment to two vehicles and have the same benefit of dozens of satellite dishes and service plans.

Raising the Zumro TentRaising the Zumro Tent

Purchasing the equipment was the easy part.  To ensure that the trailers are ready to use when needed, OEM staff has practiced using the trailer and learning how to get it set-up as quickly as possible when necessary.  This past week, OEM staff spent the day pulling-out one of the trailers from its bay; working through the tasks required to get the trailer ready to use; and documenting all the steps necessary to raise the antenna; remove equipment from the trailer; erect the tent enclosure; power up lights and generators; and a host of other necessary actions.

Thinking about PracticingRaising the generators

Though none of this activity is particularly fun, it is very necessary to ensure equipment that is in proper working order and is ready for action at a moment’s notice.  In the real estate business; the mantra is:  Location. Location. Location.

Moving the MVDR generatorsRolling up the matsCalculating the next move

Similarly, the mantra to keep the MVDR trailers ready to roll is:  Practice. Practice. Practice.

Meadows Place Receives Rare National Distinction

13 12 2014

The following article was posted on fortbendstar.com by Michael Sudhalter on October 31, 2014.

JPG, Logo, Meadows Place

The City of Meadows Place welcomed Deputy State Fire Marshall Jesse Williams and Insurance Services Office (ISO) Manager Phillip Bradley to their October council meeting to award a rare distinction on the City of Meadows Place and their fire department.

The ISO utilizes a statewide classification system that ranks and scores cities based on their ability to service their community for fire suppression. The ranking system takes into account the fire alarm facilities, quality of equipment (maintenance as well as their capabilities), planned water distribution methods and effectiveness. Cities are broken down in to a Public Protection Classification (PPC), which provides tiers ranked 1 to 10, with 1 being the best. Larger cities are traditionally well financed and usually are rated between 3-4. Smaller, and more rural communities tend to have higher ranking results.

Meadows Place has been award the rare honor of a PPC top ranking of 1. To put that in context, the ISO grades over 48,000 cities / communities nationwide. Of that, 80 have received the ranking of 1 nationwide. Texas leads the nation with 23 of those communities, however in Fort Bend County, only Stafford joins the City of Meadows Place with the distinction of being ranked 1.

“It takes the entire leadership of a city to achieve this distinction. This award is truly a statement to the willingness of the city to prioritize their resident’s safety,” said Deputy Fire Chief Jesse Williams.

Having a top ranked Fire Department assists in peace of mind for residents, but the ranking can also have financial implications. Most homeowner insurance rates are influenced by the specific community’s claim experience. The PPC rating also influences the rate. A report by the Texas Department of Insurance noted “The premium on a brick veneer house is 39 percent higher in an area rated 10 (worst) than one rated 1 (best).” They went on to show that the range is even greater for frame houses.

Mayor Charles Jessup was awarded the honor on behalf of the city, “Earning an ISO Class 1 rating is a great accomplishment, and one to be proud of. I applaud the efforts of all involved, for this was no easy feat. It took drive, determination and the political will to achieve, but most of all, it took the desire to be the best.”