Issue 17
August 2019
Dispatch Changes: Past, Present, and Future
Assistant Chief Justin Wells





Over the last year, Emergency Response has been analyzing both Fire and EMS incidents. Thousands of records covering the last several years have been analyzed for trends and patterns on how the Department responds to requests for service along with incident outcomes. The desire has been to modify our response to meet the needs of the City of Houston and the citizens we serve in an ever changing world. Based on extensive analysis, changes have been made to alter both Fire and EMS dispatches to send the most appropriate resource to the incident.


Operations has modified apparatus responses to Elevators, Automatic Alarms, and Box Alarms concerning “Electrical Outlets” and “Food on the Stove”. EMS has modified apparatus responses for low-acuity calls to high frequency locations and responses to assist ALS units. And beginning in early September, a significant amount of minor calls for EMS service will be modified. The goal of all these changes have been to both reduce the number of resources committed initially and reduce unnecessary responses.


But these changes are just the beginning of a larger initiative to respond smarter and safer to our demand for service. And while change is slow and often imperceptible, progress is being made and the Department is moving forward. Please continue to give your best, provide excellent service, and keep making the difference.

Help Design Future HFD Apparatus

The Apparatus  Design and Construction Team (ADCT) is looking for new members.  The team consists of members from the ranks of Firefighter to District Chief. The ADCT currently has positions available Firefighter and Engineer Operator. Members who are interested in applying must meet the following criteria: Share a common goal of designing the most effective and safe apparatus that may be overall needs of our department. 

A willingness to maintain membership on the committee for a minimum of one year. 

Be available to attend a class on ethics in city government. 


The ADCT continually explores ways to improve apparatus design, provide greater safety measures,  enhance apparatus visibility, and simplify serviceability.  Members who are interested in applying should email resumes to District Chief Clay Fritsch at The deadline to submit resumes is Friday, September 13, 2019. The committee is also requesting volunteers that would like to assist with the design of specific apparatus (i.e. ambulances, safety cars etc. ) Letters of interest for these positions or any question should also be submitted to District Chief Clay Fritsch at the email address listed above. 

Firefighter Rotary Home Plans for the Future
Paul Box Public Affairs

Fighting a fire can be just the beginning of the battle faced everyday by the brave men and women of the fire service. Unseen dangers at fire scenes often create many health issues for firefighters long after the incident has happened. Cancer in the fire service is a huge issue in the public eye right now and was even brought to the attention of the U. S. Senate recently. But help is available to firefighters and first responders who have been diagnosed with cancer. The Rotary Fire Fighters Home (RFFH), right here in Houston, is a place where firefighters and first responders can stay at no cost while they receive treatment for cancer at the world-famous Texas Medical Center.

Currently the RFFH is currently leasing two occupied, fully-furnished apartments with a third apartment to be added in the fall of 2019. It is the goal of the members of the RFFH to build their own facility enabling them to house more guests so to eliminate the current waiting list of patients needing this service. For more information on the Rotary Fire Fighter Home and how you can help, please visit

Extractor Update: Gear Decontamination 
Assistant Chief Ruy Lozano





The Houston fire department has embarked on an aggressive health and safety initiative to install commercial extractors and all fire stations throughout the city. These extractors will allow firefighters to clean their personal protective ensemble as needed, following fire incidents. Working through the Firefighters Foundation of Houston and through generous donations from private industry as well as funding assistance from Houston city Council, we have made significant progress in providing firefighters with the equipment necessary to enhance health and safety. The Unimac 40lb. capacity washer/extractor has become the machine of choice for the department. HFD has already purchased 27 extractors through both private funding and council district service funding from Council Member Stardig and  Council Member Travis’ office. The Firefighters Foundation of Houston recently funded an additional 29 extractors bringing our total to 56. Station Modification and installation of these extractors is ongoing. We continue working to find the outstanding balance needed to equip all stations and thank the Houston Professional Firefighters Charitible Foundation who has committed to assisting in this initiative.

Open House Station 2





The Houston Fire Department Public Affairs Division and the crew from Station 2 hosted the community for an Open House Safety Event. Kids were given tours of the fire station, learned how to use a fire extinguisher, and the importance of knowing two ways out of a burning home.  

HFD's “Open House” Public Safety Awareness Campaigns help promote Fire Prevention and Safety. July’s event was held at Station 86. Firefighters were on hand to provide information about how residents can best protect their family from fire and to remind the public about common causes of home fires — such as cooking, heating units, and smoking — the importance of having working smoke detectors (and checking them frequently), and having a fire safety escape plan in place. There are two safety themes for the 2019 open houses...”Know the way out” and “cook with caution.”

SHRINK RAP: Nurturing Relationships in Times of Stress
By Natalie Sanchez

Making multiple runs on every shift can take a heavy toll on firefighters, so much so that relationships at home or even in the station are sometimes affected. Due to stressful calls, it is easy to be preoccupied and distracted by thoughts of what happened on these incidents. Without knowing, this can lead to lack of awareness of how you may be treating others around you, especially at home. This can leave a hole in your support system. That is why it’s best to notice how you feel, what you say, and what you do when interacting with others to keep fulfilling relationships.


Here are some ways you can nurture relationships in times of stress:

1. Practice the skill of listening. The most important aspect of a relationship is that there is a sense of empathy felt on both ends. In order for your partner/friend to empathize with you, they first must be heard. Listen to what the person is saying and imagine how they must be thinking or feeling. In this way, you can become closer and more understanding of what the other person is going through.

2. Accept the other person. The greatest obstacle in listening to someone is admitting to yourself that the other person has a completely different past, personality, and desires. Everyone does not think the exact same way, so you must accept that the person may think in ways that may seem ridiculous to you.

3. Have relationship updates. You can create certain times with someone to address how the relationship is playing out. If there are any issues, you can together find ways to address them. Discuss what each of you did that made the other feel good, and what things didn’t. Make compromises.

4. Work on building trust. Building this trust requires vulnerability. Explore how open you can become with the other person, and how much of yourself you can reveal. If it seems that the person doesn’t seem willing to build trust, or is generally untrustworthy, then the relationship should be re-evaluated. Is this relationship worth your time, or is it draining you more than supporting you?

5. Create healthy boundaries. Sometimes, the other person may overstep a boundary you have. In the case that someone uses your time to their own advantage and ends up damaging your mental and physical health, you should talk about re-establishing those boundaries.

6. Realize that there will be conflict. Every relationship comes with a bag of issues unique to others, but you must be willing to expect them and work through them. Learn to work through them by avoiding language that attacks the other person directly, and try to be generous when speaking. Apologize if you make a mistake. Be honest about how you feel about what the other person did. For example, instead of saying “You’re a jerk!” use the XYZ method. “When you did X, it made me feel Y. I would have felt better if you did Z instead.”


Using these strategies is essential if you are struggling with keeping healthy relationships, or simply want to have more long-lasting relationships. With this, you can have an existing and well-built support system to turn to when struggling to get through a rut.



If you are having trouble managing stress and relationships, therapy is an option for support.  Contact our HFD Staff Psychologists for further assistance:    


Dr. Sam Buser: 281-799-8032

Dr. Jana Tran: 281-901-4341


Natalie Sanchez is a Hire Houston Youth Intern working with Dr. Sam Buser and Dr.

Jana Tran, HFD Staff Psychologists. Natalie is a senior at the Michael E. DeBakey High School for Health Professions.

COH Back to School Event

The Houston Fire Department took part in the Mayor’s Back to School Fest which is designed to help economically disadvantaged Houston- area elementary school students and their families as they prepare to return to school. Public Affairs handed out safety information and staged the Mobile Smoke trailer to teach kids about fire safety and how to escape a burning home.  

Firehouse Subs Donation 

Firehouse Subs held a check presentation for $37,000 donated to HFD. The funds were used to purchase a high water vehicle.  

Letter of Thanks

Dear Chief Pena,

On Friday, August 2, 2019 my husband John Derbyshire and I were passengers on a United airlines flight from San Francisco to Houston. My husband fell asleep on the flight approximately 20 minutes before landing I tried to wake him. My husband was unresponsive. I notified the flight attendant (and my son who had landed at another gate and was waiting at our gate for us to arrive) to call for paramedics. It was definitely my good fortune that employees of the Houston fire department responded. They immediately came to our aid upon landing. I believe without their efforts I would have had a very different outcome. Everyone involved was professional, kind, and considerate. My husband was transported by ambulance to Memorial Hermon Northwest Northeast hospital where he remained in ICU before being transferred to Methodist Hospital.  Throughout the night while in the emergency room several of the paramedics came back to check on us. The employees who helped us are as follows: A-Shift Crews- Medic Supervisor 92, Engine 63, Ambulance 74, and Medic 56. I am happy to report my husband is feeling much better. I believe it is due to the wonderful medical care provided by your employees. They are a credit to your organization. Sincerely, Pam Derbyshire

Sick Leave Policy Update

Sick leave policy update

Beginning September 1, 2019 if the sick leave coordinator has not received a valid Form 48 for an employee who has exceeded a total of 64 hours (96 hours for employees assigned to a 24 hour shift) of sick leave during the benefit year, the employee will receive written notice of the date his/her pay will be docked if he/she is unable to provide a valid Form 48 covering the specified dates or otherwise show he or she had applied and was approved for FMLA or Workers’ Compensation and/or that the sick leave was reported in error. 

The form 48 is available on the HFD Desktop in the “Document Center.”

Questions may be addressed to the HFD Sick Leave Coordinator, Senior Communication Captain Walter Pickney at 832-394-6736. 

HIPAA Update



enacted 1996.


Mission Statement

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



    Houston FireFighters live and work together in close quarters, more so, than any other organizations.  Because of this, we tend to know more about each person compared to other entities.  It’s professional courtesy to keep our Brother and Sister FireFighter’s medical history confidential amongst ourselves.  It shows respect, honor, and support for all to protect everyone’s history, treatments, and conditions from the public.  In our profession, it’s very easy to overhear personal information about most individuals with some items being very private.  10, 15, and 20 years pass-by very fast in our line of work where, eventually, physical, mental, and spiritual aliments can become very well-known.  Exposing it may not seem important to some.  Where to others, it could become embarrassing causing a lack of trust towards our co-workers.  Our attention is set on Courage, Commitment, and Compassion.  Keep our Brother and Sister FireFighter’s Medical History Confidential.  Be HIPAA compliant.  Be safe.


HFD HIPAA Compliance Officer:

Kenneth W. Payne

Chief Communications

Office #832-394-6865

Cell #713-299-2872

August Stats
Alicia Whitehead-Breaux

For August 1 – 28, 2019, HFD responded to 23,692 incidents (23,692 EMS service calls & 3,536 fire service calls)


Top responding units during this same time period:

  • Ambulance 7 - 436  responses

  • Ambulance Supervisor 30 - 224  responses

  • District Chief 46 - 59  responses

  • Engine 35 - 365  responses

  • Ladder 7 - 181  responses

  • Medic 68 - 360  responses

  • Safety Officer 30 - 136 responses

  • Senior Ambulance Supervisor 33 - 119  responses

Send us your ideas for HFD's Monthly Newsletter!

to submit a question to Fire Chief, to Sam Peña 

Chief's Corner