Issue 7
October 2018
By: PIO Sheldra Brigham
Fire Chief Sam Peña to Add an Extra Layer of Protection for Firefighters

With an increase in the number of violent incidents against first responders across the county the need for increased Firefighter personal protective equipment is great. Many times, firefighters arrive on scene before law enforcement on incidents of violence such as shootings, stabbings and assaults. The gear traditionally worn by firefighters is designed to protect them from flames, not penetrating trauma. That’s why Fire Chief Samuel Peña pushed for the purchase of ballistic vests and thanks to 

Mayor Sylvester Turner, City Council, and federal grant funding, the process has begun to move forward. The total cost is more than a million dollars for this department-wide purchase.

 

“The threat of falling through a collapsing roof, working in busy traffic lanes, or oxygen deficient atmospheres is not the only on-the-job danger today’s firefighters have to worry about.  We must now also consider protection against violent acts. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) now has standards that discuss Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for active-shooter and civil-unrest situations," said Fire Chief Sam Peña. "It is a new reality that is contrary to how we’ve always viewed this honorable profession, but protective clothing must be compatible with the environment we work in. This is the next progression of tools of the trade. Vest-wearing as PPE will come to be an industry best-practice, and this is something our Firefighters deserve for us to be out in front on."

 

The bid process is now ongoing. Once approved and procured, firefighters will wear the vests during calls that clearly have the potential for danger, such as domestic violence incidents, shootings, stabbings, etc.  The vests will be paid partly through a federal grant and general fund allocations approved by Mayor Sylvester Turner.

 

“I appreciate the taxpayers, Mayor Turner and City Council for allocating funding for this purchase. Making sure our firefighters are protected in dangerous situations is of the upmost importance,” said Chief Peña.

New Washer to Help Decontaminate Bunker Gear Installed at Station 8

This week HFD received and installed its first extractor washing machine.  The UniMac  machine is designed to meet and exceed the National Fire Protection Association’s personal protective equipment (PPE) washing requirements.  With this washer, bunker gear gets cleaned of dangerous hydrocarbons without damaging any of its life-protecting fibers and high-tech fabrics. Unsafe contaminants and dangerous smoke particulates easily penetrate turnout gear and are promptly absorbed within the fabric. 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.The unit was paid for with a donation from Chevron.  HFD will be pursuing corporate grants and Council Members to assist in funding all stations with an extractor.

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. Nationwide , fire departments large and small are focusing increasingly on cancer prevention. These extractors are part of a broader health and safety initiative spearheaded by Fire Chief Sam Pena for the Houston Fire Department.  

HFD Takes Part in Active Shooter Summit
By: Assistant Chief Michael Mire 

HFD and HPD hosted an Active Shooter and Threats of Violence summit at The Rice’s Crystal Ballroom on September 24th.  The event had over 150 attendees who represent a host of law enforcement agencies and fire departments from across the metropolitan area.  This remarkable feat accomplished something never done before.  It brought together agency executives from the entire metropolitan area to establish relationships and work together in training and response to these critical incidents.  The HFD/HPD Active Shooter Committee, The Rice, and our attendees deserve recognition and thanks for making the event a success.

History of the Committee

HFD’s Active Shooter Committee is a creation of early 2017.  Professional Development Command adopted the Active Shooter Committee last year, reorganized it and charged 

them with an obligation to forge new relationships, take an aggressive and frank approach to developing HFD’s response model to active shooter incidents.  They are an assembly of firefighters who originate from commands within HFD, are qualified in several disciplines, and have a wide range of experience.  Most are law enforcement officers with agencies in the metropolitan area.

A significant point I will share about the HFD and HPD members on this team is they recognize the impact of these incidents and respect the idea that networking and collaboration is necessary before these events occur.  Collectively, they became a committee of first responders who developed a city-wide initiative that promotes collaborative efforts toward training together, responding together, readiness, and rapid interventions during active shooter incidents in the Houston metropolitan area.  Their common goal is to establish common language, expectations, and strategies to save the most lives with minimum risk to first responders.

Why We’re Here

We encouraged joint planning, training, and exercising with HFD and HPD.  We wanted to share our information and hoped they’d share the same with each other to enhance a coordinated response to these incidents.  The sharing of ideas and identification of best practices supports our ability to improve response capabilities and save lives.

These incidents require an immediate response, and almost every active shooter event required a multiagency response.  We must have our relationships established before the time we need them.  Hurricane Harvey and the Sante Fe HS shooting are evidence of this.  Citizens do not care about what uniform is coming to save them.  Parents do not stop and identify a patch on the uniform of the person going to save their child from a shooting.  They hear sirens, see lights, and expect miracles.  We must respond as professionals and work as friends to their call.   The Active Shooter Presentation set the foundation for this type of response.

HFD Equipped with Life-Saving Overdose Drug

All HFD Ambulances are now equipped with the life-saving drug Narcan.  The nasal spray is used to treat opioid emergencies.  Recently the Houston Fire Department received a large supply of Narcan nasal spray through a grant with the Houston Police Department.  More than 4,000 doses were distributed.  ​Opioid exposures have become a hot topic both locally and nationally and as first responders, HFD personnel are likely to be in a situation where they could encounter opioid

overdoses. Opioid exposures have become a hot topic both locally and nationally and as first responders, HFD personnel are likely to be in a situation where they could encounter opioid overdoses.  

Naloxone, often referred to by its brand name Narcan, is an overdose treatment medication that can save the life of someone who has overdosed on opioids. Naloxone works by blocking receptors in the patient’s brain, dulling the effects of opioids. It lasts for an hour, and the patient may still need to see a doctor and receive multiple doses, depending on the amount of drugs they consumed.

HFD Takes on HPD in Normal to be Fit Obstacle Challenge

HFD Firefighters competed in an obstacle fitness challenge against Houston Police Officers during the Third Annual Normal To Be Fit® Expo and Education Day.  The event was held at the Metropolitan Multipurpose Center. Tina Chandler and Carl Ducena created this event to bring about awareness to those living with disabilities (and everyone) to offer education and information on how to get and stay in shape. HPD took the trophy this year but the HFD team took some bragging rights by winning the tug-of-war.

New Saws Donated by Council Member Gallegos

Check out the four new power saws purchased with District Service Dollars. These saws can cut through steel & concrete. They are critical tools often used by firefighters when rescuing victims trapped in mangled cars after accidents or cutting through burglar bars.

Captain Mark Miller Steps in for Clay Walker at Texans Game

HFD Captain Mark Miller stepped in for the Texans Pre-game show to perform the National Anthem for Clay Walker. Walker was unable to attend the game. Miller says it was certainly a highlight of his life and an experience that will live with he and wife forever. 

 

“Even more, I was honored and grateful to represent HFD as well as all first responders on a day when the Texans were paying special tribute and recognizing firefighters, police, and EMS. The Texans staff were all top notch and extremely hospitable and accommodating. This certainly helped take the edge off for such a short notice performance. I’m not sure if you knew this but this was the first time Clay Walker did not perform the anthem for the Texans home opener so it was even more of an honor for me to fill in for him! As if all of this weren’t enough, JJ Watt shuffled over at the end of the song and was the first one to congratulate me after singing! I also had the privilege of 

meeting Coach O’Brian as well as Cal McNair among many others who took a few minutes of their time to say thanks,” said Miller. 

Captain Miller says he was a very shy as a kid and didn’t really get into music traditionally. He started writing lyrics and learning guitar at 18, he says, mostly out of boredom while deployed in the Marine Corps. After I joining HFD, he formed a band and played original country music for a few years on a local/regional level. 

Public Affairs Participates in "Liberty White-Out" Texans Tailgate
Daughter of HFD Captain Lights Up the Stage of FOX's "The Voice"

If you missed it, you missed out. The audition of Sarah Grace Kimberly on this season of the singing completion show “The Voice” was amazing. Sarah Grace is the daughter of Senior Captain Brian Kimberly from Station 33 D-shift. He says he couldn’t be more proud of what Sarah has accomplished. At just 15 years old, she’s a young woman with a huge passion for music. Sarah is the frontwoman in a three-piece band called Sarah Grace and The Soul. She plays the trumpet and piano, while her bandmates, Reagan Kimberly and Daniel Holder, play drums and bass respectively. The band started in 2015, making Sarah just 12 years old at the time. The Houston Press named Sarah Grace and The Soul as one of the Top 10 Bands Under 21, and she’s no stranger to the competition on The Voice. She and her bandmates have participated in the International Blues Challenge twice, representing their hometown. She finds inspiration from Lake Street Dive, Sara Bareilles, Susan Tedeschi, and famous blue stars. Her parents say they were very excited about the audition and the result and that Sarah could not have picked a better coach. Sarah says she can’t wait to work with fellow Texan Kelly Clarkson.

Gary Blackmon: HFD's First Full-Time Chaplain

How long have you been with HFD? How long have you serve as chaplain?

 

I entered the Houston Fire academy on October 14, 1985, a little over 32 years of service. January 1, 1999 I became the first full-time on staff chaplain for the department.

 

How do you get involved with the Firefighter Support Network?

When I took on the role as the chaplain the FSN did not exist. During that time the fire department only had the chaplain, family assistant and funeral coordinator. Soon after a psychologist was hired; a few years later the Firefighters Support Network team was formed, which consisted of a psychologists, a family assistance coordinator, funeral assistance coordinators, fire Local #431 and a Critical Incident Stress Management team." 

What has been the most rewarding aspect of being a member of FSN?

My greatest desire is being able to serve others. I see what do as a calling, not as much as a professional. My vision as part of the FSN team has always been to offer Compassion, Acceptance, Respect and Encouragement. I want to be known as CARE-giver.

What is the hardest part of being a Chaplain and member of the FSN team?

One of the hardest parts about being the fire chaplain and part of the FSN; is having to bury my friends. There have been guys that I came in with as rookies that the families asked me to speak at their funerals. That's the toughest part.

Being a fire chaplain is not for the faint of heart. "You have to deal with people during the worst time of their lives. It's a special calling."

What compelled you to help start the Fire Fighters’ Protection Fund back in 2006?

All the credit goes to Retired Executive Chief Rick Flanagan and Captain Gilbert Bennett. They had the vision in mind to assist firefighters and their families with financial support whenever they had an extend stay in the hospital. Chief Flanagan love to play golf and he thought it would a great opportunity to raise money to help our firefighters in a small way to cover the cost of parking, lodging and food. I was help to be a part of the process. I am all about service in any way I can to help others.

Personal History

Chaplain Blackmon and his wife, Kintra are high school sweethearts. They have been married 37 years. Kintra is a Texas Southern University graduate (1982). She serves in a leadership roles with Community Bible Study and currently serves as Wee Children’s Worship leader and the Women’s Fellowship Core Servant Team. Chaplain Blackmon and his wife Kintra have three sons: Garry II, Matthew, Joshua and one daughter Tawana and husband Brian and two grandchildren Madison and Brian II. Chaplain Blackmon also is the senior pastor of Crossway Christian Fellowship Church in which he and his wife founded in 1997. Crossway is a cutting-edge, team oriented, purpose-driven, seeker-sensitive church with a contemporary and uplifting worship service. The church is located in the Southwest area of Houston, Texas.

 

Chaplain Blackmon also serves on several boards: Houston Fire Fighters Relief and Retirement Fund, Trustee, Houston Baptist University, Trustees, Oldham Little Church Foundation, Trustee, Character Camp, Chairmen, and Pray the Word Ministries, Director.

 

He recently received an Honorary Doctor of Divinity Degree from Encourager Bible College. He holds an Associated Applied Degree in Science from San Jacinto College, Pasadena, Texas. He’s also done cores work at The College of Biblical Studies, Houston, Texas and the Master College, Santa Clarita, CA. He also serves on numerous boards and Christian organizations throughout the country.  

 

In his “spare” time he likes playing golf, traveling with his family, and spending time with friends.

 

Before Blackmon took the role, HFD never had a full-time fire chaplain. Blackmon was the first – and only – fire chaplain for the fourth largest city in the U.S. and has been the fire chaplain for 17 years now. Blackmon's role as a chaplain is to provide care to firefighters and their families. He's on call 24 hours a day, and serves the 4,500 active Houston firefighters, as well as retirees and their families.

After more than 32 years Blackmon is nearing retirement.  He has one piece of advice for his successor. 

"Don't be me, be you. You have to carve your own niche. I can tell you what I've done and give you the manual, but you have to get out there and spend time with your members."

Shrink Wrap: Drinking in Moderation

By: Kadija Moon, M.Ed, Psychology Intern

Firefighters are exposed to more job stress compared to the general population and many other professions. Part of coping with this high level of stress is having a support system. You may look to your brothers and sisters for support off-duty, as they understand and can relate to what you have experienced. The culture surrounding the fire service tends to accept, normalize, and at times encourage drinking at off-duty events, such as social gatherings. Social drinking is pretty normal within the fire service, and it is one of the main ways we destress during our off-days. Drinking helps settle our system, especially after a tough shift. Even so, many firefighters are concerned with how much they drink… and their concerns are supported by the research.

One research study in 2015 found that over 80% of firefighters reported drinking in the past 30 days. Furthermore, half of the firefighters reported binge drinking in the past month. In our research conducted here at HFD, we found that 22% of our members met criteria for hazardous alcohol consumption. The data supports the notion that heavy drinking is commonplace in the fire service. To prevent 

problems related to heavy drinking (i.e., blacking out, driving drunk/getting a DUI, getting into bar fights, arguing with loved ones), it is important to learn some healthy ways to moderate your drinking when you do choose to drink.

Here are some helpful tips when it comes to drinking:

1. Keep track of your drinks. One drink is defined as one of the following:

a. 12 oz of beer

b. 8 oz of malt liquor

c. 5 oz of wine

d. 1.5 oz of 80 proof liquor

2. Shoot for one drink per hour. This will slow how frequently you are consuming.

3. Don’t binge drink. For ladies, that means consume less than 4 alcoholic beverages in one sitting; for fellas, that means less than 5.

4. Drink water before and in between alcohol. Stay hydrated throughout the day prior to drinking. In between every alcoholic drink, have a glass of water. This encourages pacing.

5. Eat before and while you drink. Food in your stomach will slow the processing of alcohol, so you aren’t getting drunk as fast.

6. Plan ahead. If you know you’re going to drink, take an Uber or have a DD on standby.

7. Avoid drinking 12 hours before shift. You are only as good on shift, as the preparation prior to shift including a great night’s sleep and sobriety.

When you drink, drink in moderation. Stay safe and make it home. If you suspect you or a colleague may be having concerns with their alcohol use, reach out to get help. Psychology services are free to you and your immediate family members. To get connected, please contact:

 

Firefighter Support: (832) 394-6607

Dr. Buser: (281) 901-4341

Dr. Tran: (281) 799-8032

Kadija Moon, M.Ed: 804-991-0487

 

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

Protective Hoods Update

In an effort to provide increased protection and improve health and safety conditions for Houston firefighters, Fire Chief Sam Pena pushed for funds to purchase additional protective sock style hoods. Recently, Mayor Sylvester Turner approved  $560,000 to purchase 4,000 additional protective firefighting hoods for the Houston Fire Department.

 

According to National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 1851 guidelines, cleaning and decontamination are important in maintaining the integrity of protective gear in reducing exposure to carcinogens. HFD members evaluate their gear after each use. As needed, to reduce risk and avoid exposure, some form of cleaning may be required before wearing the gear again. This purchase of 4,000 hoods will provide each firefighter with an additional hood to allow cleaning after an event reducing the likelihood of wearing contaminated gear.

 

“I want to do what I can to assist in limiting firefighter exposure to particulates that can pass through the fabric of dirty personal protective hoods and be absorbed by the skin on the neck. With this change, I’m considering the operation perspective and an additional protective hood allows firefighters to readily swap out the soiled piece of equipment with a clean one to help protect our firefighters from exposure to carcinogens," said Fire Chief Sam Peña.

 

The hoods will also protect firefighters during non-fire-related rescue operations, emergency medical operations, and victim extrication.

 

Additionally, HFD has switched to a new protective hood which is a departure from the hood used for years. The new Nomex hood is custom made for HFD with emphasis on particulate protection against chemicals, gases, and vapors.

More New Ambulances

The Houston Fire Department is set to receive 15 new ambulances after the purchase was recently approved by the Houston City Council. The ambulances will be used citywide by Houston Fire Department personnel for delivery of emergency medical services to the citizens of Houston 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Total cost for the purchase is $2,613,400.00 and includes a full three-year/36,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty with a life expectancy of ten years. These new vehicles will replace existing vehicles that have reached their life expectancy. 

 

“Thank you to Mayor Turner and City Council members for approving these much needed additions to our ambulance fleet,” Sam Pena, Houston Fire Chief. 

 The new ambulances were ordered yesterday (9/13) and delivery is expected within the next 4 months.

 

Fire Chief Peña and HFD Crews to Participate in National Night Out Events  

National Night Out

On October 2, 2018, neighborhoods across the City hosted block parties, festivals, parades, cookouts and other various community events with safety demonstrations, seminars, youth events and visits from emergency personnel, including at least 25 scheduled HFD apparatus visits.

 

Fire Chief Samuel Pena also participated in two major community events in the Gulfton and Meadowbrook areas.

 

“Making Houston safer is a joint effort between Fire and Police departments and the Neighborhoods we serve," says Chief Pena. "National Night Out is our chance to step outside our home, get to know our neighbors and come together to celebrate our efforts and continue building the relationships that make us a better and safer city.” 

Saying Thank You!

Fire Station 68 would like to give Gallery Furniture and Jim Mcingvale a HUGE thank you for the new mattresses!

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

Protected Health Information (PHI) is any information, including genetic information, whether oral or recorded in any form or medium, that relates to the past, present, or future physical or mental health or condition of an individual, the provision of health care to an individual, or the past, present, or future payment for the provision of health care to an individual.

WHAT IS NOT PHI?  Employment records, FMLA, Disability accommodation and sick leave requests, Drug screening, Pre-employment physicals, Fitness for duty exams, Health information relating to non-disability, Life insurance and workers compensation.

 

HIPAA Compliance Officer:

Kenneth W. Payne

Chief Communication

Office #832-394-6865

Cell #713-299-2872

Light Duty Vehicles

HFD recently received new vehicles for Fire Prevention and Life Safety Bureau personnel.  The purchase was approved by Mayor Sylvester Turner and City Council for a total of $322,096 and is part of the FY 17 & FY 18 budget.   More new light duty vehicles will arrive for fire personnel in January of 2019. 

 

“Thank you to Mayor Sylvester Turner and City Council for these much needed additions to our Iight duty fleet and for continuing to fund efforts to update fire department resources,” said Fire Chief Sam Pena. 

 

Because of other funding approved by Mayor Turner and City Council, earlier this year HFD received 8 new fire engines, 4 additional high water vehicles, 9 new ambulances and just recently ordered 15 more ambulances for an overall investment of more than 20 million dollars.  

Upcoming Events

October 22, 2018

6pm-9pm

Firefighter Foundation of Houston Reception

51fifteen 5175 Westheimer 

October 27, 2018

6pm

Valor Awards 

Omni Hotel 13210 Katy Fwy 77079

Fire Safety Community Outreach

HFD Public Affairs team teaching fire prevention to children through our puppet show. Stay low in a fire, fire drill, stop drop and roll. 

School Visit

Chancellor Elementary learning fire safety with our mobile smoke trailer.

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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