Issue 15
June 2019
Houston Fire Department Implementing Changes to Cut Cancer Cases for Firefighters
By: PIO Sheldra Brigham

Houston Fire Chief Sam Peña’s efforts to improve the health and safety of firefighters is in high gear with the installation of nine additional diesel exhaust removal systems in Houston fire stations. Due to the extremely busy emergency response system in Houston firefighters are exposed to vehicle fumes on a routine basis. When these vehicles are started, the exhaust infiltrates the living and sleeping areas of the fire stations that are staffed around the clock. Before Chief Pena implemented a department-wide health and safety initiative only one fire station out of 94 was equipped with exhaust removal systems . That number is now up to ten and includes stations 7,8, 9,16,21,25,51,28,60, and 31. Six more installations have been scheduled for stations 39,46,56,58,68, and 73. These are the busiest fire stations in the city and are responsible for deployment to a quarter of HFD’s emergencies. Approximately 600 of HFD’s firefighters are assigned to these stations.  These systems will provide a healthier and safer work environment for Houston’s busiest first responders. 
In 2017, the HFD applied to FEMA for an Assistance to Firefighters Grant (AFG) to begin modernizing and installing vehicle exhaust capture and removal systems. In July of 2018, the HFD was awarded the grant in the amount of $703,914, with a grant match obligation of $70,391.  Mayor Sylvester Turner and the Houston City Council approved the matching funds. There are still 78 fire stations that remain in need of vehicle exhaust systems. With an average cost of $80,000 per station, the retrofitting of the remaining fire stations will cost approximately $6,240,000.
 
“We are making great progress with the installation of a vehicle exhaust systems in our fire stations. But we still have work to do. Installing this equipment in each of our 94 fire stations is essential to creating a healthy and safe working environment for our employees. I appreciate the Mayor and the Houston City Council’s commitment and continued support of this initiative,” Sam Peña, Fire Chief.
 
The HFD will continue to pursue grant opportunities in forwarding its health and safety initiative with the plan to modernize 15 additional fire stations in calendar year 2019-2020.

Houston Firefighters Equipped with Post-Fire Decontamination Kits to Fight Cancer Risks

Houston firefighters can now start the process of removing soot and other possible cancer-causing chemicals from their work gear while in the field.  All HFD engines have been issued post- fire decontamination kits.  The new decontamination kits allow for fast removal of soot and will also help prevent fire crews from tracking chemicals into their trucks, fire station and into or onto their personal belongings and eventually into their homes.

A study done by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health shows firefighters are nine percent more likely to be diagnosed with cancer than the general population. They also have a 14 percent higher risk of dying from cancer.  

Completing on-scene gross decontamination immediately upon exiting the fire ground has shown an 85% reduction of fire ground contaminates from firefighters work gear.  

“With the increased use of plastics and synthetics in modern day buildings firefighters are more likely to encounter exposure to toxins.  Using decontamination methods in the field can play an integral role in preventing some of the cancer risks that firefighters face.  The HFD is committed to creating a safe and healthy work environment for Houston firefighters.  These kits are one component along with gear washers and diesel exhaust removal systems,” Sam Pena, Fire Chief. 

Specialized Washers that Remove Toxins from Gear to be Installed in 20 Houston Fire Stations

As part of the Houston Fire Department’s  Health and Safety Initiative, Fire Chief Sam Peña is announcing the addition of commercial strength gear washing machines for 20 district fire stations. These extractors or “gear washers” are currently being installed and will enable firefighters to deep clean their gear after an incident.  
In eras past, it was considered a badge of honor to wear “seasoned” equipment. Today, however, we understand the risks firefighters face due to harmful carcinogens. Plastics and synthetics are more common in today’s households, making residential fires more dangerous due to an increase in toxic and carcinogenic combustion products. Unsafe contaminants and dangerous smoke particulates easily penetrate turnout gear and are promptly absorbed within the fabric. That’s why gear extractors are so important. Advanced cleaning is best accomplished with a minimum 30-lb-capacity washer extractor with fully programmable controls—including water-temperature control and a 100 g-force extraction setting. This meets today’s requirements while allowing the flexibility to ensure adherence to future requirements. Nationwide, fire departments large and small are focusing increasingly on cancer prevention in response to studies showing firefighters contract cancer at higher rates than the population at large.
 

“The health and safety of our firefighters is of the upmost importance.  It’s critical that we invest in equipment that is beneficial to their well-being.  The addition of commercial extractors to remove toxins from bunker gear is one part of that investment. It’s our goal to install extractors in every Houston fire station,” says Chief Peña.

These 20 extractors were funded through community donations.  The HFD is working to purchase additional extractors. 

HFD Takes Part in Safety Stand Down
By: Assistant Chief Michael Mire

Safety Stand Down is a joint initiative of the International Association of Fire Chiefs and the National Volunteer Fire Council focused on training and education related to safety. Officers should postpone all non-essential activities except for scheduled training and discuss way to increase firefighter safety between June 16th and 22nd.

This year’s theme is reducing our exposure to cancer; Reduce Your Exposure: Its Everyone’s Responsibility.

A formal roll call shall be conducted by the officers and should include:

• An explanation of “Safety Stand Down 2019”

• A moment of silence for all LODDs

• Emphasis on the need for firefighter safety

• Cancer prevention initiatives

• Changing IDLH nomenclature to IDLH-F (Immediately Dangerous to Life, Health, and Future)

• Emphasis on the need for annual physicals

• Fitness and nutrition

• PTSD and suicide prevention

• Reviewing the 10 Rules of Survival

• Vehicle safety and traffic incident management

• Discussing near misses, prevention and corrective actions

• Focus on safety and what can be done to improve fire department and individual safety.

• A second moment of silence for the LODDs

• Relax

• Go home safe

Additional information can be found at https://www.safetystanddown.org.

Water Strike Team Activated for Heavy Rains

The Houston Fire Department activated it's new Water Strike Team for the first time ahead of anticipated heavy rainfall earlier in June. Members of this team have advanced life-saving training in swift water rescue. Mayor Sylvester Turner and City Council approved nearly 2 million dollars for flood response equipment and funds for additional training in swift water rescue. The Water Strike Team staffed (4) High Water Vehicles in each quadrant of the city and conducted community and drone flooding assessments. These included HWV’s 05, 21, 58 and 45. 

HFD’s  remaining (5) HWV’s were staffed by on-duty personnel and deployed as needed. A total of (9)HWV’s were available for this weather event.  In addition to the above resources,  HFD will has the following assets available:

20 Evacuation Boats, 11 Rescue Boats, 3 Achilles Boats, 9 Wave Runners, 25 Prime Movers (4X4 with lift kits to haul trailers), and 2 Drones. HFD's drones are used for mapping as well as search and rescue. They allow for better situational awareness with real-time streaming to multiple devices.  HFD also worked with HPD by placing two rescue swimmers on HPD’s Bell 412 helicopter.

ETHAN Program has Documented Success
By: Assistant Chief Justin Wells

Due to the members’ strong work and commitment, the ETHAN (Emergency Telehealth and Navigation) program continue to be successful for the Houston Fire Department and is approaching 25,000 patients. In fact, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services developed an Emergency Triage, Treat and Transport (ET3) model for low-acuity patients that incorporates alternate destinations using telehealth, based largely on work done here in Houston. Statistics have shown than more than 9 out of 10 times the ETHAN Physician successfully direct the patient to alternate transportation with the average ETHAN physician session lasting around 6 minutes. The most common HFD ETHAN chief complaints or what the “patient states or believes” is the primary problem are: General Pain (e.g. extremity pain), Abdominal Pain, Flu Like Symptoms, Back Pain, and Headache. 

OnStar Donates New Ambulance to Station 17
By: Ren-Nesa Maulseed Public Affairs Intern

OnStar has gifted Houston Fire Department’s Station 17 a new ambulance to help meet the needs of the community. Through its initiative #OnStarGivesBack, the company “celebrates the triumph, resilience, and strength of communities affected by natural disasters”.  In addition to meeting the community’s need for assistance following Hurricane Harvey, in May of 2019 HFD received more than 25,000 EMS calls that required the use of an ambulance.

Station 17 is the prime response team for Minute Maid Park, so when OnStar learned that one of its ambulances had major damage the company saw fit to grant the station a new emergency vehicle. This new vehicle came as a surprise, but it will stay as a key apparatus in first responders’ lifesaving work.

HFD Prepares for Hurricane Season
By: Assistant Chief Herbert Griffin

The Houston Fire Department wants to ensure our members and their families are prepared this hurricane season. For 2019, NOAA predicts a likely range of 9 to 15 named storms, of which 4-8 could become hurricanes, with 2 to 4 being potentially major hurricanes. The most important thing you can do is prepare yourself, your family, and your home for the season. Consider stocking up on emergency supplies including food, water, protective clothing, medication, batteries, flashlight, important documents, road maps and a full tank of fuel. Exterior housekeeping is essential at both the fire station and personal home since storms paths can be erratic and unpredictable.

​Steps to prepare for dangerous weather:

• Update ESS information: cell phone, email, and call back information.

• Have an emergency plan and review it with everyone in your home. Make sure everyone knows the safest location in the home.

• Stock up on supplies such as blanket, first aid kits, radios and food for an extended period.

• Protect important documents by making sure thing as ID cards and other vital information are placed in a secured waterproof container.

• If you have pets, have pet essentials handy such as: food, medication, toys, and other pet needs.

• Always check the City of Houston website, department emails, radio, television sources or other media outlets for emergency information.

Shrink Rap: Managing That Burning Anger Inside
By Amanda Broyles, HFD Psychology Intern

What makes you angry? Maybe your buddy at the station said something that offended you? Or you’ve had one too many BS calls on your shift? Or maybe someone cut you off while driving? There are a lot of things that can make us angry, so it can be helpful to know how to manage anger in a constructive way.

One of the most common myths about anger is that it’s bad or not okay. This isn’t true at all; anger is actually a very natural and can be a helpful emotion if handled appropriately. Anger can be necessary for survival and getting your needs met. But since anger has a bad rap, most people think it’s best to push it down or ignore it. However, this can have the opposite effect, and your anger may explode later on, like a shaken soda can. This could have serious negative impacts on you, your love ones, and maybe even your job. In addition, holding in anger can lead to more depression or anxiety in the long run.

So, is it good to let your anger “all hang out?” No, in fact, completely letting your anger out can escalate anger and aggression, which doesn’t help anyone. So, the best approach is to acknowledge your anger and handle it constructively. Below are some strategies to keep that burning anger at bay:

1. Think before you speak- In the heat of the moment, it's easy to say something you'll later regret. Take a beat to collect your thoughts before saying anything, maybe take a walk or leave the room. This may help you think about what you want to say and allow others involved in the situation to do the same.

2. Calmly express your anger- As soon as you're thinking clearly, express your frustration in an assertive but non-aggressive way. State your concerns and needs clearly and directly, without hurting others or trying to control them.

3. Get some exercise- Physical activity can help reduce stress that can cause you to become angry and can release any pent-up energy you may have. If you feel your anger rising, go for a brisk walk or run, or spend some time working out in a way that you enjoy.

4. Take a timeout- Give yourself short breaks during stressful times of the day.  For example, a few moments of quiet time after a tough call on shift might help you feel better prepared to handle what's ahead without getting irritated or angry.

5. Practice relaxation skills- When your temper flares, relaxation skills can help you calm yourself. Practice deep, diaphragmatic breathing exercises, imagine a relaxing scene, or repeat a calming word or phrase, such as "Take it easy." You might also listen to music, write in a journal, or anything else that relaxes you.

6. Identify possible solutions- Instead of focusing on what made you mad, work on resolving the problem. Give it your best shot to resolve it, but also remember that not all problems have concrete solutions, so go easy on yourself if the situation doesn’t get resolved.

7. Use humor to release tension- Lightening up can help diffuse tension. Humor can help you handle what's making you angry and, possibly, help let go of any unrealistic expectations you have for how things should go. Avoid sarcasm, though — it can hurt feelings and make things worse.

Hopefully these tips can help you get a handle on your anger, but if you feel like you need more support, you can contact HFD psychological services. The services we offer are free to you and your immediate family members. You can give us a call at (281) 901-4341 (Dr. Jana Tran) or (281) 799-8032 (Dr. Sam Buser).

Amanda is an HFD Psychology Intern working with Dr. Sam Buser and Dr. Jana Tran, HFD Staff Psychologists. Amanda is a doctoral student in the UH Counseling Psychology program.

Firefighters Train for Use of Ten New Fire Engines

The Houston Fire Department is receiving 10 new pumpers. Crews are required to attend a familiarization class before operating the new pumpers. Stations 44, 59 and 70 will attend the morning class while the evening class is open to stations 7 and 55. Classes will take place at the VJTF at 0800 and 1300 respectively.

Current members assigned to suppression apparatus will go out of service until the conclusion of classes when the new apparatus will be in service.

Summer Safety Press Conference

The Houston Fire Department,  Department of Family and Protective Services, City of Houston Medical Director Dr. David Persse and the Houston Apartment Association will offered safety tips to help citizens have a happy and safe summer. Special remarks were given by a family who suffered from the very tragic loss of their child left in a daycare vehicle and another family who lost a child to drowning.  

More than 550 children have perished in the United States since 1998 due to being left or trapped in vehicles the HFD has responds to a large among of calls where children under 8 left in cars.

 

The Houston Fire Department’s overall goal is to make sure no more children will die because they were left unattended in a vehicle. 

 

If children are trapped inside cars, it can result in heat exhaustion or heat stroke, leading to permanent disability or death in a matter of minutes. Heat stroke, also known as hyperthermia, can cause shock, seizures, irregular heartbeat, heart attack, and damage to the brain, liver and kidneys.

 

National Stats indicate that even on “mild” days or if the window is “cracked” the inside of a vehicle can reach nearly 120 degrees. And remember children are more sensitive to heat, causing heat stroke.

Statistics also indicate that about 30 percent of these were due to children playing in an unattended vehicle and nearly 20 percent were due to caregivers intentionally leaving their children in the vehicle.

 

HFD recommends that parents and caregivers place their purse, phone, computer or wallet in the back seat as a reminder that they have a child in the car.

 

Keep a stuffed animal in the car seat and when the child is put in the seat place the animal in the front with the driver and have a plan with the childcare provider to call you if your child does not show up for school.

Station 105 Open House
HIPAA Update

HIPAA UPDATE

HEALTH INSURANCE PORTABILITY AND ACCOUNTABILITY ACT

enacted 1996.

 Mission Statement

This monthly newsletter is to keep H.F.D. personnel informed of HIPAA news and regulations throughout the year in concomitance with the yearly Moodle class.

 MESSAGE

    Touchstone Medical Imaging (“Touchstone”) has agreed to pay $3,000,000.00 to the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), and to adopt a corrective action plan to settle potential violations of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) Security and Breach Notification Rules.  Touchstone, based in Franklin, Tennessee, provides diagnostic medical imaging services in Nebraska, Texas, Colorado, Florida, and Arkansas.

    In May 2014, Touchstone was notified by the FBI and OCR that one of its FTP servers allowed uncontrolled access of more than 300,000 patients’ protected health information (PHI), which remained visible on the internet even after the server was taken offline.  Touchstone failed to conduct an accurate and thorough risk analysis of potential risks and vulnerabilities to the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of all of its electronic PHI (ePHI).  [Taken from:  HHS Press Release Office, May 6, 2019].  

HFD HIPAA Compliance Officer:

Kenneth W. Payne

Chief Communications

Office #832-394-6865

Cell #713-299-2872

Upcoming Opportunities

The Civil Service Commission announces a certified promotional examination for the position of Engineer Operator.

Only online applications using NeoGov will be accepted.

To sign up:

1. Go to https://www.governmentjobs.com/careers/houston

2. Select from the Menu and choose the promotional job

3. Select appropriate Examination from the list

4. Select “Apply” to be redirected to the log-in page to apply for the position

 

After signing up online, members should print the confirmation page as proof that they have signed up for the exam through NeoGov (members should maintain this document with their personal information).

 

All officers shall ensure that a member under their command who may be interested in taking the above examination is aware of the signup deadline. Members who fail to sign up by the deadline will not be allowed to take the examination.

A Note of Praise

Thanks you EMS ,who responded to my home for my 11 year old son who was having an episode of atrial flutter. You all responded so quickly and I can't thank you enough .You got him to the hospital so he could get the care he needed . Happy to say he was discharged a few days later .THANK YOU SO MUCH—Houston Mother

May Statistics

In May 2019,  HFD responded to 30,122 incidents (25,883 EMS service calls & 4,239 fire service calls)

 

Top Responding Units

 

Ambulance 7 – 462 responses

Ambulance Supervisor 30 – 285 responses

District Chief 68 – 81 responses

Engine 7 and 46 both with 393 responses 

Ladder 28 – 193 responses

Medic 8 – 394 responses

Medical Service Unit (ARFF) 92 – 242 responses

Safety Officer 30 – 170 responses

Squad 46 – 100 responses

Senior Ambulance Supervisor 33 – 152 responses

Send us your ideas for HFD's Monthly Newsletter!

to submit a question to Fire Chief, to Sam Peña 

Chief's Corner
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