Chief Charlie Martin of the Houston Fire Department (HFD) announced to the Kingwood Services Association (KSA) Public Safety Committee at its Feb. 12 meeting that Kingwood’s fire stations are in the final stages of establishing “Automatic Aid Agreements” with several neighboring fire departments. It is an effort that has been going on for over a year in terms of planning and negotiating and is now actually happening.
“I’ve talked in the past about how we’re doing Automatic Aid Agreements with Porter. That’s kind of exploded, not in a bad way but in a good way for Kingwood. We started out about a year ago talking to Aldine, which is the west side of the airport along Beltway 8. The two fire departments [Porter and Aldine] use the same law firm so we started working on a boiler-plate contract we could use for the departments in the area to get the closest fire trucks and EMS to the incident, wherever it might be. So with that, Atascocita Fire Department came on board, Huffman has come on board, as has Eastex Fire Department which is from Beltway 8 at the [Eastex] Park and Ride all the way up to Humble,” Martin said. He noted that Humble has not yet been contacted but likely will be as it has been is in the process of going through its own internal expansion during the year.
“So we are shortening the response times by getting everyone on the same page,” Martin said, and highlighted the real time and measurable benefits to all parties, especially when multiple emergencies occur and additional resources are needed.
Martin used a Huffman example to illustrate the advantage these agreements bring to Kingwood and the other communities. He explained that when a Huffman area under City of Houston jurisdiction requires a fire engine or EMS response, Huffman Fire Station No. 65 answers the call. However, if a second call comes in for an additional unit or EMS, it would have been sent from Kingwood to Huffman in the past. Under the new protocol, Fire Station No. 65 will be able to able to use the Huffman Volunteer Fire Department to answer the second call in a more timely and efficient manner because it is located much closer to site of the incident than the Kingwood stations.
Martin explained that when the Kingwood stations began this effort with Porter, they did not realize it had not been done on this level of magnitude with multiple fire departments anywhere in Harris County. It has taken time to work out the operational and legal details.
“It took us a year to get where we are today and I am thinking that about every three months they will be coming online. With Aldine, the agreement is in the controller’s office. In Porter, the agreement has been completed and is before the city council for approval within the next week or two. Atascocita is in the process,” Martin said.
Committee Chairman Marshall Settegast asked if these agreements might result in any reduced manpower or equipment within the Kingwood community. Martin was both adamant and confident when he said they would not.
In other business, Settegast reminded the representatives that James Pavlu, the committee’s Houston Police Department security officer and an active committee participant, had recently retired after many years of outstanding service. He suggested the committee authorize and create a retirement plaque of thanks in recognition for his outstanding service.
“Pavlu is the cream of the crop. We are losing a good officer,” Settegast said. The committee agreed and authorized the expenditure unanimously.
The next KSA Public Safety Committee Meeting will be Wednesday, March 11, at 7 p.m. at the South Woodland Hills Community Room, 2038 Shadow Rock, in Kingwood. The public is invited to attend.