The Killeen Fire Department has one thing in mind: excellence.
“I’ve always been taught ‘when you quit your career quit better than when you found it,” Killeen Fire Chief James Kubinski said in an interview last Thursday.
A $ 49,000 KFD master plan was commissioned by Deputy Fire Chief James Schambers in March of this year. A comprehensive study of the city’s fire department was carried out by Emergency Services Consulting International, resulting in a 231-page document and 27 specific points for improvement. The completed master plan and study were presented to the city about two weeks ago.
The main areas of concern include what is described in the plan as too extensive service, inadequate facilities and training difficulties.
The Emergency Services Consulting International multi-year study identified as a top concern for firefighters what the Emergency Services Consulting International multi-year study identified as overloading KFD’s EMS services. In Killeen, the fire department supplies fire trucks and firefighters, but also provides paramedics and ambulances for the city.
According to the study, Medic units 2, 5 and 6 experience hourly use above the optimal unit, that is, the time during which a unit is not available for a response because it is currently engaged. in another incident. According to the study, the fire department is engaged with an average of three to four incidents at any given time.
The study goes on to say that Medic 2, which primarily serves northeast Killeen, regularly experiences what the study describes as a “line in the sand,” an “unsustainable” engagement threshold in which the community is less than 70% likely to receive emergency services “in a timely manner”. The study adds that personnel assigned to units above the 30% engagement threshold may show signs of burnout, fatigue, and may be at risk of making mistakes – and in the high-pressure environment. in which EMS workers regularly operate, these errors can mean life or death.
Taking action to resolve this issue, the Fire Department secured the creation of a new medical unit through the City Capital Improvement Program – Medic 22. When completed, Medic 2 will share an area. response with Medic 22, in an area that receives 61% of Killeen incidents.
Additionally, the study identified a notable discrepancy in station location which resulted in an extended service area in southwest Killeen.
According to the study, the National Fire Protection Agency recommends a travel time of around four minutes with the first vehicle for emergency responders nationwide. While the KFD falls below the 90th percentile when it comes to travel time, its 5:44 minute average is still a far cry from the NFPA standard.
However, KFD does better when it comes to response times, which is the code for how long it takes for a dispatcher to receive a call and put a vehicle in the path of an incident. According to the study, the KFD’s average participation time of 1:29 minutes is “rather impressive”, but still above the NFPA recommendation of 60 seconds. It should be noted, however, that dispatch calls are handled by Bell County Fire Department and Emergency Services support staff, which means response times do not necessarily reflect the effectiveness of the response. ‘a station.
One of the ways the Killeen Fire Department is trying to cut travel times is to establish a new emergency operations and training center in southwest Killeen.
Approved through American Rescue Act funding, the $ 12 million project will allow KFD to gain a foothold in southwest Killeen and address another major issue: training.
Training and recruitment
A significant barrier to an adequate response, the study described KFD’s training program as “robust,” but restrictive. According to the study, KFD’s Class A combustion room accessory is located behind the central fire station in a shipping container. However, runoff from fire streams appears to regularly threaten the local ecosystem as it approaches the nearby stream, requiring the use of absorbent pads and distraction products to avoid contamination. In addition, the exercise ground on Condor Street is “small” and restricts the service to the conduct of specific exercises for a single company, which presents the same risk of contamination as the room for burning accessories.
The master plan recommended that KFD create a new position to specifically oversee the “diverse and administratively complex program” in the form of a training leader.
The study also came out in favor of an employee base “reflecting the community in which it serves”. The Killeen fire department is 93% male and 81% white, while the town of Killeen is 49% male and 44% white, according to the study. The document recommended that KFD increase the number of open houses and community events and focus on hiring people from the ministry’s service area.
This would include the community of Ding Dong, south of Killeen.
Additionally, the study recommended that KFD leverage its Fire Academy program and partnership with KISD and Central Texas College to attract vocation-oriented individuals. The study recognized, however, that many fire departments have difficulty recruiting young people between the ages of 18 and 21, as social and economic pressure often pushes them into academic and non-professional careers.
Another point of concern for the consulting company and Chief Kubinski is the poor maintenance of aging equipment.
The study rated each of the 10 fire service stations, ranking them as “excellent”, “good”, “fair” or “poor”.
Fifty percent of the 10 fire stations in the department were rated as fair, with the fire station support building rated as very poor. The support facility, originally built in 1952, has been decommissioned as a fire station and converted into a support facility, and currently houses equipment and vehicles. However, according to KFD deputy head of support services, Keith Foxx, another manager, the building envelope is compromised, creating a safety risk as well as several other structural issues.
In addition, the consulting firm found that housekeeping and general storage were “lacking” at older stations, due to insufficient storage space, point-capture vehicle exhaust systems did not. were not universally installed and response equipment was often stored unprotected on the floors of fire apparatus.
“In some cases,” the study said, “the response outfits smelled like smoke, indicating that they had not been sufficiently washed / decontaminated.”
In short, the study found that there were a number of best practices that the KFD could better adhere to, but storage issues were often due to a lack of space.
This master plan is just a first step, Kubinski explained. What comes next is a strategic plan, which would allow the city to identify priority areas for improvement and develop strategies to meet established standards. The study highlighted a significant number of shortcomings, but Kubinski said those areas for improvement are motivators.
“There is no tiptoe around this,” he said, adding that “the negatives motivate us to be better”.
For Kubinski, there are two specific areas of improvement: setting up an emergency operations center and improving customer service.
“I think the residents are pretty happy,” he said. “But the only way to be sure is to investigate. “
While Kubinski has said the master plan “will be our Bible” for the future, much of his job will be to convince city council to approve a strategic plan and some of the costliest expenses, such as the remodeling of the station and the acquisition of land.
Finally, the consulting firm noted that while there are many potential areas for improvement, KFD has an ISO rating that places it in the top 1% of fire departments across the country.
“There’s a lot to work on, but there’s also a lot to love,” said Kubinski, who became Killeen’s fire chief last December. “I look forward to serving the Killeen community.