Improving Fire Dept. Response Time
AFD hopes to get five new fire stations
The Public Safety Commission on March 7 unanimously approved sending to City Council a resolution that would direct city staff to begin looking into ways that it could bring Austin Fire Department stations on board in five particularly needy city areas. Austin Firefighters Association President Bob Nicks told the commission that a 38% increase in the city's population since 2000 (in addition to expectations of similar growth through 2030) has significantly reduced AFD's ability to respond to emergency situations within the prescribed standard time (AFD is expected to respond within eight minutes of each call at least 90% of the time). Currently, Nicks said, only seven of the 46 operational fire stations are meeting that goal. Not surprisingly, each of the seven are located within the center city. Outspoken PSC mainstay Mike Levy noted that a number of the central stations were built back when AFD was running hoses out on horse-and-buggies.
AFD and AFA's recommendation is that staff consider adding new stations in the area around U.S. 290 and MoPac; the Loop 360 area around Westlake; Goodnight Ranch near East Slaughter and I-35; Moore's Crossing, southeast of highways 130 and 71; and Canyon Creek, near Anderson Mill Road and FM 620. They also recommend that Council move to reconsider a number of emergency response tactics, and that the PSC create a subcommittee to try to cut down on sending emergency trucks on nonemergency calls, and look at other options to adjust to traffic. Nicks also mentioned the potential for public-private partnerships, in which stations could get built into new developments. "It should take all of these qualities into account in a dynamic way, so that year to year, [area deficiencies could be addressed]," added AFD Assistant Chief Tom Dodds. "If we had a massive element introduced into a part of town, things could shift to that area from other areas."