In a presentation months in the making, three leaders from Citygate delivered several recommendations Sept. 19 to the Harris County Emergency Services District No. 9 board, the taxing entity that supports CFFD. Officials indicated the ESD’s financial reserves put the district in a good position to fund future projects.
“You’re serving an immense amount of square miles and are already responsible for a population of 600,000 resident souls,” Public Safety Principal Stewart Gary said. “You bear a significant customer service burden already, and the good news is you’re going to have a plan and the resources to grow it commensurate with good outcomes equitably everywhere, not just by happenstance where you find yourselves today.”
The Citygate report concluded the department’s three main challenges at this time are:
- Deployment needs and projected growth
- Headquarters support capacity being understaffed by about 26 positions
- Long-term fiscal operations and planning
The infill stations—which include one off Greenhouse Road near Hwy. 290, one off Tuckerton Road near Queenston Boulevard, and one near Fry Road and West Little York Road—should be prioritized, Gary said. The other five stations should be built depending on the pace of development with four spread along the Grand Parkway south of Hwy. 290 and one slated for the northern part of the district near the Telge Road and Grant Road intersection.
In the meantime, adding ambulance capacity will be short-term priority for the district. Gary said the goal is for medic units to be utilized no more than 35% of any given hour; however, data in the report indicates many units are operating at overcapacity multiple hours a day, and relief is needed immediately.
“We have to set a trip wire in our industry and say, ‘Wait a minute now, if they’ve been going call to call to call for six, eight, 10 hours, a) did they get any rest or relief? [and] b) how effective are they on the 15th call of the shift in terms of patient care ability?’” Gary said. “You really need extra ambulance capacity yesterday.”Remember this?
CFFD has not opened a new fire station since before the COVID-19 pandemic, according to prior reporting. Station 13 cost the district about $5 million and opened in Bridgeland in 2018, although some renovations at older stations have been ongoing since.
Earlier this summer, ESD 9 made a deal to purchase a tract of land from Caldwell Cos. for $450,000 to build a future station near Hwy. 290 in the Towne Lake area.
Citygate’s report included estimated costs of these priorities:
- $2.14 million: adding one 24-hour medic unit and three 12-hour medic units to address the excessive ambulance crew hourly utilizations
- $14 million: building a new 15,000-square-foot, fire station with an engine, truck and ambulance
- $111.9 million: building eight new fire stations as recommended
- $3.67 million: staffing a new station full time
- $29.38 million: staffing eight new stations full time
Based on recommendations from Citygate, next steps for the ESD include:
- Adopting response time policies
- Adopting growth trigger points to determine where and when future stations will be adding
- Increasing ambulance service capacity to relieve current staff
- Directing staff to develop a timeline and plan to implement recommendations by the end of 2023