OCTOBER QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS

“Why do we continue to purchase cheap hose and nozzles? We’ve tested Key Combat hose as well as TFT nozzles and both offer better quality. Cheap hose has increased friction loss, nozzle whip, and often times less durability which means you buy more. So why not buy better quality?”

 

Thank you for question.  However we do not buy “cheap” fire hose or nozzles. HFD has a testing procedure and acceptance process for fire hose and we have rejected samples deemed as cheap or do not meet our requirements. We buy quality hose from manufacturers based in North America and with the current contract “made in the USA”. One drawback to hose purchase is with the city council approval process. They can reject supply recommendations for a single supplier and go with the least expensive bid in different hose categories. Lowest bid does not equate to cheap. We strive for consistency with performance, which is difficult with today’s changing material and manufacturing process. Another drawback is hose purchased “on contract” and hose “purchased with apparatus” are different and cause problems with variety. We need one standard and need to make the apparatus supplier gives us hose on the new apparatus in alignment with the hose on contract.

 

We have tested Key Combat hose and have found it has a friction loss variation that is difficult to predict with any accuracy and its performance is not any better that of the hose we currently purchase. It is also more expensive without any true benefit. It’s not thicker, more durable or less kink resistant than some other brands, regardless of what the salesman tells you. It’s purported to flow more water than other brands, but that leads to other problems that we try to eliminate. All manufacturers have hose like the “combat-style hose” and we reject those too for the same reasons. With each hose contract we have made refinements to improve the quality and consistency of hose we purchase.

 

As far as nozzles go, we purchase one of the most dependable and field-proven nozzles in the business today. It’s dependable, rugged, repairable, durable and consistent with performance and flow rates. We have used TFT nozzles and found their performance inconsistent. The one thing true with all Automatic flow nozzles is that they are required to be calibrated yearly or their flow rates will vary widely from nozzle to nozzle. This was evident when we did a large friction loss study at our Val Jahnke Training Facility. The TFT nozzles had to be abandoned and the Akron model 1723 used to develop consistent and repeatable results. The TFT nozzles we do still have are the one that came with the purchase of the original fleet of E-One pumpers in the mid-nineties. They have not been calibrated since. As they are brought in for repair they are replaced with an Akron 1723 nozzle.

 

Nozzle/Hose Whip is a term often used for erratic movement and kinking in smaller, 1 ¾” coupling hose lines at the nozzle operator position. Nozzle weight, hose construction and diameter inconsistencies are often the greatest variables found in nozzle whip. The greatest contributor to nozzle whip is not having your hands on the nozzle! Pushing the nozzle and hose out in front of you and purposely whipping the nozzle around WILL cause a dangerous condition and possibly lead to an injury. As a former instructor at the training academy, we never taught cadets to do that type of action. We taught them to maintain a “hands-on” control of the nozzle always.

 

I have been the hose test officer since 2000 and have seen no trends of higher failure rates between hose brands. Our hose loss rate is fairly-consistent and predictable and has seen no abnormal highs or lows in failure or loss. 1 ¾” hose is the most-used hose in the department and the busier companies that use it repeatedly produce the most failure-to-replacement rates. That is normal and consistent with any large metropolitan department.

 

Roger Westhoff

Deputy Chief / Shift Commander 37 D

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JUNE QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS

Chief Pena, Is it possible to have Debit-Day personnel or Category I offenders, in lieu of Discipline, staff Reserve Apparatus for Community Interaction? These individuals would not be "Out of Service," and would not have to rush the visit(s). Many would argue that the Station in the Community Interaction District should engage the public. However, the reality of different shifts, personnel on vacation, personnel on holiday and personnel being sick make up for a mixture of regular and non-regular personnel already.  

 

Thank you for your question. These community interactions provide a significant opportunity for our department to engage the community participants in a mission-related way, to get involved in key decisions and develop support by community leaders. 

 

It is important for the firefighters that serve the particular service areas and districts to know and understand those they serve. We cannot isolate from the organizations and community groups in our service areas and expect to prosper in an arena that encourages partnerships, coalitions, and positive relationships. 

 

We don’t discount using Debit-Day personnel to attend if they are part of the crew assigned to the particular function, but I’m not a fan of making attendance a part of the discipline process. These community interactions are not to be taken as discipline, they are an important part of our future success. Customer service, community involvement, community leadership and influence must be an integral part of everything we do. We can either keep working with limited resources, or we can do something productive to improve the situation and gain community support.

 

You all do excellent work each day, this is just another part of the great work you do.  

Why has the city and HFD never place any value on firefighters' higher education. Will there ever be any tuition assistance from the city outside of the very limited choices the state provide?

 

Thank you for your question. I can only surmise that other pressing items consumed available dollars over the higher education issue, but I agree with your premise. Within the fire service we value experience, training and time on the job. And, although that experience is vital to safely address emergency incidents, it is not enough for the interactions that take place outside our department. The Fire Service is not an isolated profession and our firefighters must have the tools and abilities to meet the continuing demands of our job. These include communication skills, management of complex budgets and programs, resource allocation, response and data analysis, conflict resolution, critical thinking, etc., all skills that higher education can help meet.

 

Education is primarily a personal responsibility, but if we truly value higher education, resources for the firefighter should be an absolute item to address during bargaining. Resources can include tuition assistance, cost reimbursement, time for classes, technology in the workplace, incentives, etc. A priority for me is to address the professional development of our organization, and key to that priority is education and certification, as well as assistance to the firefighter.

Chief, Previous uniform committees over the years have suggested to add shorts to the uniform guideline. They even field tested shorts with good reviews several years back. Most of the older generation of the department that were against wearing shorts have now retired. I understand that a small minority would still be against it, but can we revisit approving shorts? With our long hot summers, our fleet A/C issues that have no end in site, this could be one small thing to help the morale and comfort. If it will not cost the city any money by adding them to the guideline and the voucher, why specifically would we not? Many departments in Texas and across the US allow this already, can you please look at addressing this? Thank you in advance.

 

Thank you for your question. I will commit to taking an objective look into your request. However, from my perspective, the fire department’s image is just as important as everything else we do and will be factored into our assessment.

 

Our people are agents of customer service. It’s the public’s perception of our image that makes or breaks an interaction, and our uniform is an important part of that image. 

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MAY QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS

When is HFD going to get drones equipped with TIC cameras to help to scene size and view integrity of facilities from a 360 view point. There are some videos of use by Military and Fire Departments around the nation. 

Thank you for your question. HFD currently has one UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle) that has an optical sensor with 4k resolution with no zoom. We have ordered another as part of the Harvey asset needs request we made in October 2017. We should take delivery by the end of May 2018. The new UAV has the capability of holding two sensor packages (cameras) and will include a 4k/high res Optical/Thermal combo sensor on one side and a 1080p telephoto optical sensor with 30x optical zoom on the other side. 

These feeds can be securely pulled down to any windows based mobile ToughPad or Desktop with an internet connection for on-scene situational awareness or remote monitoring. We currently have one certified pilot and have authorization from the FAA to operate in the National Airspace System (NAS) via a Certificate of Authorization (COA). Recognizing the need to have more certified pilots and certified visual observers, we are searching for mechanisms to train and certify more HFD members. 

When will you publicly fight for the fair treatment of Houston FF's ? How do you honestly feel about the pay parity fight with COH ? Do you feel we should be paid the same as HPD ? When will you get rid of the ALL HAZARD Response ...or modify it to save our failing fleet ? When will you ask for more $ from COH for replacement of apparatus ?

Thank you for taking the time to send this in. I disagree with the premise of your first question and sense you would like to debate the issues. This is not the proper forum for a debate, but you do deserve a response. You don’t have to provide your name and can remain anonymous, but please contact my assistant, Denise Estrada, 832.394.6702, so she can schedule a station or district meeting and I will answer your questions, in person and provide an opportunity to discuss the issues. 

As far as response, a dispatch steering group is working to provide recommended changes to fire call types, initially focused on automatic alarm and elevator call types. These changes will be out in short order.

 

A separate group is working on recommendations for medical call types. Some changes to how we process psychiatric calls have already been made, but a wholesale change to our deployment model, which includes converting some response units to transport units, requires greater detail in managing the change.

In regard to your last question, the following is what we have advocated for, and received since I accepted this position.

Fleet Acquisitions from FY17,18 &19  

FY 17 cost estimate 

Fire Engines                                                 4                           $1,996,000.00 

Ladder trucks                                              2                           $1,897,000.00 

Towers                                                          1                              $950,000.00 

Ambulance Chassis                                  17                              $646,000.00 

Warehouse Vans                                         2                                $46,838.25 

FY18  

Fire Engine                                                   4                           $2,160,000.00 

Ladder Truck                                                1                              $935,000.00 

Quint.                                                            1                              $935,000.00 

Ambulance                                                   7                              $857,100.00 

Ambulance Modules                                   2                              $231,420.00 

Misc. Vehicle Purchases FY 17 &18         44                          $1,152,000.00 

PPE Hoods                                                                                    $556,000.00 

SCBA/Masks                                                                               $2,956,000.00 

Radio/In Mask Communication                                              $2,887,880.00 

High water vehicles                                     4                              $264,000.00 

8 boats/4 trailers                                                                          $250,000.00 

Grant  

Hazmat Truck ( Port Security Grant)                                         $972,900.00 

                                                                                         Total $20,239,658.25 

FY19 Projections $10,800,000.00 (Double from last year) 

Fire Trucks                                                    10  

Ladder Trucks                                                3  

Ambulances                                                   8  

 

Still to be purchased: 1.6 Million for flood response vehicles 

30,000 for Unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) 

Chief, it has been 9 months without a transfer posting. This is the longest gap of time in my career without a posting. 9 months where members cannot put down roots, 9 months of working out of vehicles, 9 months of not knowing if you're part of a crew, and 9 months chiefs don't have dedicated officers in their stations. For a long time postings for special operations and emergency operations where done separately. At what point will postings be performed and why haven't they been done, separately if necessary? Thank you.

Thank you for your question. You are correct, the period between transfer postings has been prolonged. This was due, primarily, to two grievances and appeals regarding the calculation of transfer points. The expired Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) outlined the transfer point calculation to be used. Our initial approach was to maintain the same transfer point calculation after the expiration of the CBA. This resulted in 2 grievances stating TLGC, Chapter 143, should be the binding authority relative to transfer of personnel. 

The grievances have since been arbitrated and a new transfer policy drafted considering appropriate recommendations. Because the transfer policy, and related moves, will affect all assignments in Emergency Operations, it was not prudent to have different postings initially. As we move forward, postings for special operations and emergency operations may be on separate tracks. For now, transfer postings will be announced the week of May 7th. 

The ruling regarding higher class pay came out last week. When will the fire department notify it's members of the new policy?

Thank you for your question. The arbitrator’s decision on the higher-class grievance was received April 18th. The grievance was granted in-part, and denied in-part. The rulings affects several operational scenarios while responding to emergencies and handling emergency calls. The ruling will impact shift change staffing process and adjustments to Shift Holdovers, Daily Staffing, and Call-in Overtime policies is necessary. Higher Class is directly tied to vacancies and staffing and require revisions to those guidelines. We are evaluating the decision as we draft a policy considering appropriate recommendations before it is processed for legal review. The goal is to have a comprehensive policy in place this month. 

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