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Government and People
Public Hearing on PR 15-22, the "Chief of the Fire and Emergency Medical Services Department Adrian H. Thompson Confirmation Resolution of 2002"
The Committee on the Judiciary
Testimony of Adrian H. Thompson, Acting Chief, Fire and Emergency Medical Services Department
Good Morning Councilmember Patterson and Members of the Committee on the Judiciary. I am Adrian H. Thompson, the Mayor's nominee for Chief of the Fire and Emergency Medical Services Department.
I have been a life long resident of the District of Columbia, having lived in most of the quadrants of the city. I attended D.C. Public Schools, starting with Crummel Elementary School, located in what is called the Ivy City area, and then Shaw Junior High School. I graduated from Cardozo High School, where I was a member of the Cardozo High School Swim Team, which at the time, was one of the only two high school swim teams in the D.C. Public School system. After graduating in 1967,1 attended North Carolina A&T State University for two years, majoring in Electrical Technology. In February 1969, I was called to active duty in the U.S. Navy and after extensive training, I was subsequently assigned to the Inshore Undersea Warfare Group (IUWG-1) Westpac Detachment in Viet Nam. I served a tour of duty in Viet Nam and returned to Washington, D.C. in April 1970. In May 1970, I was appointed to the D.C. Fire Department. As shown on the attachment of my employment history, I have served in almost every area of the D.C. Fire and Emergency Medical Services Department during my 32-year career.
Since the events of September 11, 2001, this Department has assessed and is constantly reassessing the needs and effectiveness of its various operational sections. We have realized that our emergency call back plan needed to be modified and it was. Our fleet of apparatus front line and reserve was inadequate for providing proper service in a large or extended duration incident. All of our operational level personnel were in need of retraining and advanced training in basic operations and specialized skills operation, i.e., urban search and rescue, Haz Mat, confined space entry, and water rescue operation. Through the efforts of our Mayor, Congressional representative and members of our Council, the U.S. Congress provided funding for our agency to start acquiring new apparatus, personal protective equipment, specialized training, and advanced technical equipment.
At the present time, my senior staff and I are focusing on the delivery of EMS service and improving the operational efficiency of the EMS bureau as a whole. Our response times are not where we would like them to be due to our staffing and drop times at medical facilities. To remedy this, we have aggressively started filling vacancies requiring EMTs and paramedics. We have also initiated an Advanced Basic EMT Unit, which can administer drugs and treat minor health issues prior to transporting. Our Medical Director has been instrumental in developing an EMT-Intermediate Paramedic program, which will be implemented when the Medical Director says it's ready. Lateral Transfer Legislation, which has been approved by the City Council and signed by the Mayor, has been developed into a draft policy and has been sent to the Office of Labor Relations. This policy will allow those EMS employees who wish to transfer to the uniformed force an opportunity to receive the same benefits as our uniformed firefighters and become firefighters if they choose. The Department intends to create one entry path for fire suppression and EMS operational employees. Those new applicants will be given an additional six months of training but will allow the Department to start the process of having an Advanced Life Support provider on every suppression vehicle that responds to an incident. This will in turn reduce our emergency medical response times greatly. I want to emphasize that this will be a long process to get where the agency and city need to be in terms of providing the best possible emergency medical services.
Our Communications Division is also understaffed and, as with the EMS Bureau, we are aggressively processing and filling those vacancies. Also, with the anticipated release of 911-O-Type revenue, we plan to hire eight new entry-level call taker/dispatchers-four of whom will be bilingual-to increase our effectiveness in providing services to all residents and visitors to this city.
This completes my oral testimony. I have submitted more extensive written testimony for the record. Thank you for your consideration and I am prepared to answer any questions you may have.
Additional written testimony on key issues from Chief Thompson:
The Department is pursuing a seven-part strategy to improve our response time performance. The key components of this strategy are:
More on "Chute Times":
Current efforts to improve response time include closely monitoring the time interval between dispatch of a call and acknowledgement of the response. This interval, known as "chute time," can be broadly described as the time between when a unit receives notification of an alarm and when their wheels begin turning. During this time interval, a unit records the dispatch information from Communications Division, dons the appropriate personal protective equipment, secures their quarters (if they are responding from the firehouse), boards their apparatus, acknowledges their response, and begins traveling to the reported location of the emergency.
Our long-term goal is to meet the NFPA (1710) standard of chute times of 60 seconds or less for all emergency responses. We are already exceeding this standard in some areas, such as our chute time for structure fires, which is currently averaging 44 seconds (as of January 2003). Since we began aggressive monitoring of chute times, in late October, we have reduced the average chute time for fire/rescue emergencies (all calls other than structure fires, medicals, and "proceeds") from 1 minute, 22 seconds (October 2002) to 1 minute, 09 seconds (January 2003). Our first responder (fire apparatus) chute time for critical medical calls during January 2003 was 1 minute, 31 seconds.
We are currently holding our unit officers accountable for ensuring that their "chute time" is less than two minutes (120 seconds) on all emergency calls. We are still resolving technical issues with the validity and reliability of the chute-time data from our Computer-Aided Dispatch (CAD) system. When these issues have been resolved, we will begin holding unit officers accountable for the 60-second target goal.
We currently have 22 EMT vacancies. We have 19 new EMTs scheduled to begin work on February 10`h, which will reduce our number of EMT vacancies to three. We currently project that 12 of our current EMTs will be shortly upgraded to full EMT/ Paramedic status. Although this will create additional EMT vacancies, we already have sufficient applicants in the pipeline to fill these anticipated needs. We have tentatively scheduled a second class of EMTs to begin work in mid-April, which will bring our number of EMT vacancies to zero.
On the paramedic front, the situation is slightly more challenging. We currently have 51 paramedic vacancies. Five of our personnel who are currently serving as EMT/Intermediates will shortly be upgraded to full paramedic status. We have three applicants ready to begin, and eight applicants who are undergoing the final stages of the personnel process. This will reduce our number of paramedic vacancies to 35. As mentioned before, 12 of our EMTs will shortly be upgraded to paramedic status-this will reduce the number of vacancies further. As you may be aware, there is currently a nationwide shortage of paramedic candidates. In light of this, we are renewing our outreach and marketing efforts -- including a targeted recruitment campaign directed at students in local university-based paramedic training programs, and an aggressive multi-state mailing directed at nationally-registered paramedics.
1 + 1 Staffing
The Fire and EMS Department is moving forward with our plans to implement "1+l" staffing. We are currently discussing the details of our proposal with the Emergency Health and Medical Services Administration at the Department of Health (DOH) and the Medical Control Subcommittee of the Mayor's EMS Advisory Committee. Our medical director, Dr. Fernando Daniels, has expressed his full confidence that this program will enhance our ability to deliver timely Advanced Life Support (ALS) service without diminishing the quality of care.
1 + 1 staffing will pair EMT/Paramedics with EMT Basics who have completed our new advanced protocol training. This program will improve our ability to deliver first ALS response to critical medical incidents by making every transport unit in the city an ALS unit. Not only will this dramatically improve our ability to respond to critical medical calls for service in eight minutes or less-a key result measure for our customers-it will result in more efficient operations as well. Previously, critical medical calls might receive a "coupled response"-the closest BLS transport unit, accompanied by an ALS transport unit responding from a further distance. Under 1 + 1 staffing, it will be necessary to send only one transport unit per patient-the closest transport unit will always be an ALS-capable unit. This will result in both greater availability of units and decreased response times.
Environmental Issues at Fire Stations
Diesel Exhaust Ventilation System
Diesel exhaust fumes in fire stations are a health hazard and the Department is fully committed to addressing this important health and safety issue. A project is underway to provide for the removal of vehicle diesel exhaust from fire stations. A pilot program involving an evaluation of different types of ventilation systems is now complete and the first permanent installation of the selected equipment was completed in December 2002. Additional installations are currently underway and there is finding to complete approximately one half of our fire stations. Additional finding (.75m) was requested for FY 04 to complete this high priority project.
Asbestos Abatement in Fire Stations
A department-wide facilities asbestos survey is complete and the Department is working with the Office of Property Management (OPM) to begin the removal of asbestos as well as lead paint from our facilities.
Status of the Fleet
Our fleet is in its best condition in many years. Currently, over 90 percent of our emergency apparatus is within its economic retention rate. (90.2 as of January 2003. ) This statistic will continue to improve as we receive new apparatus. We project that by late summer, 100 percent of our fleet will be within its economic retention rate. This is a tremendous accomplishment-one that will finally allow us to begin building an adequate reserve fleet and emergency mobilization capacity. However, in order to maintain this status, it is critical that we continue to budget for the necessary annual investment in vehicle replacements. This continued investment is outlined further in our FY 04 budget submission.
In the wake of 9-11, the Department performed a comprehensive revision of our Emergency Mobilization Plan (General Order 32-01). We are well prepared for the orderly and efficient callback of employees in a major emergency. As our fleet of vehicles continues to grow, we will be constructing a new reserve unit storage area as .well as pre-deploying fully equipped "ready reserve" apparatus at strategic locations around the city. This pre-deployed "ready reserve" fleet will enable us to instantly expand our operational fleet of fire apparatus by 33 percent in the event of an emergency mobilization.
Current Issues at Communications Division
The full staffing level for our operations floor is 13 telecommunicators per shift-a total of 52. We currently have 9 vacancies. Because of the existing spending pressures, we are currently operating with a minimum staffing level of 10 telecommunicators per shift, rather than backfilling the vacant positions with overtime. We are aggressively recruiting for new telecommunicators (45 are currently in the background process), and we anticipate that by the end of the summer, we will be fully staffed. Additionally, with the E911 fund, we have been approved to hire eight new entry-level call taker/dispatchers. Of these eight entry-level positions, four have been earmarked for bilingual personnel. From the E911 fund, we are also requesting four new instructors and two mapping specialists for the communications division, pending sufficient funding.
As we are all aware, telephone calls for fire, rescue and emergency medical service are initially routed through a Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) call-taker. There is no technological delay during this transfer process, however when all call takers are occupied (at MPD or Fire/EMS Communications) delays can occur which impact our ability to render prompt service to our customers. This is a systemic issue that we will strive to address as we plan for the construction of the Unified Communications Center (UCC) project and seek to increase the total number of call takers on duty. We are jointly developing with MPD a pilot test of a Unified Call-Taker position that will enable one call-taker to immediately process any type of emergency call, thus eliminating the transfer delay that currently exists.
All Points of Interest (POI)-such as the national monuments-are now in the CAD system. These have been tested and validated. Additional information generated by the creation of new streets, addresses or other pertinent details is entered into the CAD system on an ongoing basis.
Training and Certification
The current spending pressures are challenging our ability to deliver both mandatory and non-mandatory training to our personnel. We are currently concentrating our efforts on complying with local and federal mandates-specifically, EMS and Haz-Mat certification requirements. As a key component of this, we have introduced the new Advanced EMT Protocols into our EMT re-certification curriculum. This training dramatically expands the scope of practice for our emergency medical service providers-enabling them to better serve our customers. The Department has also just completed a massive effort to certify all operational members at the Federally-mandated Haz-Mat Operations leveland we have developed a re-certification schedule so that we can maintain compliance with this critical requirement. As part of this program, we have brought our number of certified Haz-Mat technicians up to 260.
We are also leveraging Emergency Preparedness Funding to enhance the ability of the Department to respond to Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) and other potential terrorist incidents. Using this funding, we have been able to send:
All of the above training programs are on-going, and we will continue to send members as scheduling and funding permits.
All of our special operations units are receiving training in rope/high angle rescue, confined space rescue, trench collapse rescue, and building collapse rescue. Additional haz-mat members are receiving training in specialty areas such as tank car specialist and advanced air monitoring.
The Training Division is exploring options for accomplishing the majority of in-service training by direct delivery. This will be accomplished by tapes, CDs, and a proposed battalion training officer position. These officers will receive train-the-trainer courses and then return to their battalions for delivery. We are also gearing up for the Fire & Emergency Television Network (FETN) to go back on-line, enabling us to more easily distribute training films. Also, the training video file is being placed on our Local Area Network so that field officers can access the file, pick specific programs, and have a custom tape made up for them to use in company drills.
We are attempting to streamline the re-certification presentations and also become more efficient in our management of these issues. We are accomplishing this by forecasting our exposures better and assigning staff to be program managers for specific courses from inception to completion. We are presently pursuing legislation which will allow us to charge user fees for training we deliver to external customers; these funds can then be used to enhance the capacity of our Training Division.
For further information contact: Adrian H. Thompson, Acting Fire/EMS Chief District of Columbia Fire and Emergency Medical Services Department 1923 Vermont Ave., NW Washington, DC 20001 Tel. 202673-3320
ADRIAN H. THOMPSON
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