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Back to DC Fire and Emergency Services main pagePR 15-22

Committee on the Judiciary public hearing on the
“Chief of the Fire and Emergency Medical Services Department Adrian H. Thompson Confirmation Resolution of 2002,” PR 15-22
February 6, 2003




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Jim Dougherty
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Testimony of Adrian Thompson Testimony of Thomas Tippett

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
Kathy Patterson, Chair
Council of the District of Columbia

Testimony of Adrian H. Thompson, Acting Chief, Fire and Emergency Medical Services Department
February 6, 2003

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.

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Additional written testimony on key issues from Chief Thompson:

Response Time

The Department is pursuing a seven-part strategy to improve our response time performance. The key components of this strategy are:

  • Improving the distribution of our Advanced Life Support (ALS) resources through the "1+l" staffing initiative and continuing the dynamic redeployment of transport units. We have plans in development that will incorporate the Automatic Vehicle Location (AVL) feature into our Dynamic Unit Redeployment (DUR) policy. Dynamic redeployment enables us to better match the number and location of units with the demand for service. The new AVL technology will further enhance this ability.
  • Enhancing our Advanced Life Support delivery capacity by establishing an inhouse training program to upgrade EMT-Basic providers to the EMTIntermediate Paramedic level.
  • Continuing our efforts to fill all of our existing EMS provider vacanciesincluding an aggressive outreach campaign to recruit paramedics.
  • Establishing a new paramedic supervisory position -- "EMS-6" -- at the Communications Division to monitor hospital conditions and drop times. This position will allow us to better match medically appropriate delivery destinations with emergency room conditions -- ensuring shorter drop times and shorter wait times for patients. We have also placed two additional 24-hour medic units in service, as well as a new field-training unit: Medic 38. 
  • Closely monitoring our dispatch-to-response interval-the time it takes for our personnel to begin their responses after receiving an alarm.
  • Restarting the Paramedic Engine Company (PEC) program as soon as we are able to do so in a fiscally efficient manner. The Paramedic Engine Company program has proven to be highly successful in reducing the time for our first ALS response to critical medical calls. We have temporarily suspended this program because we can no longer afford to deliver this service using positions that add to our overtime budget. As soon as we have sufficient personnel who are cross-trained as both paramedics and firefighters, we plan to resume the PEC program. We have several firefighter/paramedics who are in the final stages of provisional evaluation at this time, and we anticipate that many of our new hires will also be able to serve as firefighter paramedics. Additionally, as members of our Emergency Medical Services Bureau elect to participate in cross-training and transfer to positions in the Firefighting Division, they may be chosen to staff Paramedic Engine Companies as well. 
  • Reducing the use of our emergency transport resources for non-emergency medical calls through public education efforts such as our "Make the Right Call" Program. This will result in more transport units being available for critical medical incidents.

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.

EMS Vacancies

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. 

Emergency Mobilization

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:

  • 115 members to the Department of Justice (DOJ) Center for Domestic Preparedness, in Anniston, Alabama for WMD training.
  • Seven members to the DOJ-sponsored Incident Response to Terrorist Bombings, at the Energetic Materials Training and Research Center, N.M. Tech., Socorro, NM
  • Four members to the DOJ Nat. Ctr. for Exercise Excellence at the Nevada Test Site, WMD Radiological/Nuclear Course
  • One member to Emergency Mgt. Institute, Radiological Emergency Response Operations, Mt. Weather, VA.

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

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1824 A Street, SE
Washington, DC 20003


District of Columbia Fire and Emergency Medical Services Department

Firefighter, 1970 - 1980

  • Assigned to Engine Co. l and Ambulance 3
  • Transferred to Ambulance 6 (A-6) to the Emergency Ambulance Service upon completion of Emergency Medical Technician Course at DC Fire Department Training Academy
  • Reassigned from A-6 to Engine Co. 23 to gain experience in High Rise Fire Fighting Operations and Metro Rail Emergency Operations and Procedures
  • Selected as Wagon Driver (Technician) of Engine Co. 23

Sergeant, 1980-1983

  • Assigned to Truck Co. 10
  • Responsibilities included operational capability of the Twin Agent Unit and Foam Units on Helicopter Landings.
  • Trained in the use and application of foam and dry chemical agents in reference to aircraft incidents

Lieutenant, 1983 - 1993

  • Assigned to Engine Co. 27
  • Acquired experience and knowledge of Rail Transport Systems and Operations, and Highway Interstate Transportation Methods
  • Received instructions from PEPCO on the operations of the Electric Generating Facility with emphasis on firefighter safety
  • Reassigned to Engine Co. 4
  • Acquired experience and knowledge of Hospital Operations pertaining to Hazardous Material Storage and Use, and Firefighter and Public Safety in response to incidents in a hospital environment

Assistant Director of the Physical Capability Testing Program, 1988 - 1989

  • Coordinated the scheduling of approximately 1200 candidates with the DC Office of Personnel and trained Physical Capability Test Monitors
  • Maintained proper administration of the test by monitors and kept logistics of equipment necessary for administering the test

Captain, 1993 - 1995

  • Managed the facilities of Engine Co. 2 and Truck Co. 1, and operational capability of the Mobile Command Unit
  • Trained Truck Co. 1 personnel on the apparatus' operational capability
  • Director of Physical Capability Testing Program

Battalion Fire Chief, 1995 - 1999

  • Assigned to 2nd Battalion
  • Assigned to 3rd Battalion
  • Responsible for the management and staffing of the Battalion personnel, fireground operations, and the coordination of training in the battalion
  • Command Operations Officer of Cave-In Task Force Incident Command System / Standard Operating Procedures Revision Committee
  • Member of Item Writing Committee for the 1998 DC Fire/EMS Promotional Examination and Performance Standards Committee
  • Appointee of the DC Fire & Police Retirement Board

Deputy Fire Chief /Fire Marshal, Fire Prevention Bureau, 2000-2001

  • Managed the Fire Prevention Bureau implementation and enforcement of the DC Fire Code and related laws, assisting with and developing fire code requirements for city regulations
  • Implemented the Senior Fire Marshal Program for senior citizens and the Fire Chief's Insignia Award Program which recognizes Hotel Association of Washington, DC members for their efforts in complying with fire code requirements
  • Established a requirement for all new Inspectors assigned to the Fire Prevention Bureau to become BOCA Certified Level-I Inspectors within their first year of selection, and mid-level supervisors to become BOCA Certified Level-II within two years
  • Implemented the criteria for selecting Inspectors and Fire/Arson Investigators for the Fire Prevention Bureau
  • Served as Department's representative on the Mayor's Leadership Team for the Neighborhood Services Initiative

Assistant Fire Chief of Operations, Office of the District of Columbia Fire Chief, 2001- Present

  • Responsible for managing the daily operations of the Firefighting and Communications Divisions
  • Assist in the development of the DC Fire and EMS Departments Essential Support Functions for the District's Emergency Response Plan
  • Serve on Police and Fire Retirement Relief Board
  • Represent DC FEMS on Consequence Management Team for the Mayor


District of Columbia Fire & EMS Training Academy
  • Courses included Hazardous Materials for First Responders Level II & IV; Instructional Techniques for Company Officers; DC Fire/EMS Officers Training.
National Fire Academy
  • Course: Strategic Management of Change
  • Course: Command and Control of Fireground Operations
University of Maryland Fire and Rescue Institute
  • Course: Trench Collapse and Rescue Training
North Carolina A & T State University
  • Coursework in Electrical Technology from 1967-1969

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FEBRUARY 6, 2003

Chairperson Patterson, members of the Judiciary, I am Thomas N. Tippett, retired member of the D.C. Fire and EMS Department. I was asked to appear today, not to testify about the qualifications of the Mayor's nominee for Chief, but to discuss with you, from my perspective the position of D.C. Fire Chief. 

During my 32 year career, I served under nine different Fire Chiefs and held the position myself for a short period. From 1984 to, 1995 I also served as the elected president of Local 36, D.C. Fire Fighters Association, and two terms as the elected active member on the D.C. Retirement Board. I have traveled extensively throughout the United States and Canada speaking on Fire and EMS issues.

While many Departments share some of our operational concerns, I am convinced from personal experience that the position of Fire Chief in Washington, D.C. is the most difficult and demanding Qhief Officers position in the nation. No other Department has the large number of Federal buildings and Foreign Embassies as Washington, D.C.; buildings that do not conform to our fire codes, buildings that we cannot inspect, yet buildings for which we have the sole responsibility for providing fire protection. No other Department has a budget procedure that includes not only the normal process of Mayor and City Council approval, but adds the U.S. Congress where Members from both Houses have on many occasions added or deleted major Fire Department line items, often against the expressed wishes of our city elected officials.

To my knowledge no other Chief has to negotiate Mutual Aide agreements with as many different jurisdictions as the Chief of D.C. Prince Georges and Montgomery Counties in Maryland have strong union contract concerns that must be addressed, while Arlington and Fairfax Counties in Virginia, a Right to Work State, present a different set of issues. And only New York City has more daily visitors than Washington, D.C. Visitors whose Fire and EMS safety is the responsibility of one Fire Department, unlike Police protection, which is shared by many agencies. Despite these unique challenges, prior to the early 1990's the D.C. Fire Department along with Chicago and New York City were recognized as the three top fire Departments in the nation. Sadly; however, despite the best efforts of the outstanding men and women of the P.C. Fire and CMS Department. that is no longer the case.

In the early 1990's weak leadership within the Department allowed the orating budget to be reduced by 30 percent, from 103M to 73M dollars. One half of the pumping apparatus vas removed from operation, companies were closed and staffing was reduced by 20 percent. During the last decade demand for service from our citizens has continued to increase. The D.C. Fire Department is now the fourth busiest Department in the nation. Engine Company 14, for eight straight years has been recognized as the busiest Engine Company in North America. 

Nationally respected Fire Service expects are all telling me the same thing; Washington, D.C. is the prime target for a terrorist attack and the D.C. Fire Department if not prepared.

If adequate resources are not provided, I predict this Committee will be holding hearings in 2004 to confirm yet another new Fire Chief, the sixth in five years.

I respectfully suggest that now is the time to restore this Department to the high level of professionalism needed in the 21st century. And because of the unique Federal presence, I further suggest that the U.S. Congress would be receptive to a special request for a multi-year Federal payment to the Fire Department for training and apparatus procurement. 

In closing, I am encouraged by the strong leadership of the Judiciary Committee as exhibited by your serious approach to his confirmation process. I pray your leadership, along with a renewed commitment from the Mayor, the new Fire Chief and the Congress will result in a Department equipped and staffed to handle the imminent challenges facing our city.

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