What emergency services are provided by the MUD?
Fort Bend County MUD 151 currently contracts with Katy Fire Department to provide fire protection services to residents of the Firethorne community.
Who provides emergency medical services (EMS) to our community?
EMS service (ambulance) is provided by Fort Bend County EMS. Additionally, the fire crews at the Firethorne station are trained EMTs and each truck crew has at least one licensed paramedic to assist on every call that is dispatched from the station. This allows for advanced, life-saving actions to be taken immediately without delay in those critical moments before EMS can be dispatched and arrive.
What caused the MUD to look for a new fire contract provider?
In March of 2017, the previous provider (Fort Bend ESD 4 Fulshear-Simonton, or ESD 4) sent the MUD a notice that they would be terminating their contract for the services provided to Firethorne effective in May of 2018. Around the same time, ESD 4 informed the District that they would be requesting an increase in the contract amount should the District want to re-contract with their agency after the May 2018 termination. At the same time, ESD 4 also informed the District that they might support annexation. This would eliminate annual contracting for services and result in a mandatory ESD tax to all residents for fire protection if Firethorne was annexed into the ESD 4's service territory.
The options above prompted the MUD board to begin exploring whether other agencies might be able to provide a higher level of service than ESD 4 provided with their two person, part-time firefighter model. By contracting with another agency, Firethorne would retain the ability to monitor and review the activities and level of service of the providers in the station, and the freedom to renegotiate contracts that are underperforming or seek services from another provider if renegotiation doesn't yield desired results.
Why did the MUD contract with the Katy Fire Department for fire protection?
In addition to a request for proposals from ESD 4, the board reached out to four additional neighboring agencies (Katy Fire Department, Harris County ESD 48, Community VFD, and Willowfork). After careful consideration, the District chose to pursue an agreement with the Katy Fire Department for a number of reasons. Katy Fire Department territory is contiguous to Firethorne, and is a highly trained and well organized agency with an Insurance Service Office (ISO) rating of 2 (Firethorne is currently an ISO 3). The agreement with Katy Fire Department will keep the Firethorne fire station fully staffed 24/7 with four full-time career fire firefighters that are all at least EMT trained as well as ensuring each crew has at least one licensed paramedic with the advanced life support equipment to respond to not just fire but critical medical emergencies in our community.
What is the total cost to the neighborhood for the fire protection contract?
Instead of a fixed price, FBCMUD 151 has contracted with Katy Fire Department to cover the operations costs of personnel and equipment plus 5%. This 5% was added to cover many of the unseen costs like: training; scheduling; maintaining certifications; document and report maintenance; command staff as well as the City of Katy HR, payroll and finance functions specific to staffing the Firethorne station. Original cost estimates for the contract were projected using worst-case scenarios for planning purposes as a fiscally conservative approach to the budgeting process. As costs are to be reviewed quarterly for adjustment, the latest review of the second quarter shows actual costs to be significantly lower than was originally projected and planned for in this year's budget. Furthermore, under the current agreement with Katy Fire Department, any overpayments will either be reimbursed or credited towards future operational costs.
Will resident taxes go up for the new fire protections contract with Katy Fire Department?
At this point the board does not anticipate increasing the MUD tax due to the fire contract. Currently the District is covering the cost of the contract by utilizing its current available operating funds. The board will continue to consult the District's financial advisor prior to the setting of its tax rate, and intends to minimize the financial impact to homeowners as much as possible through its fiscal planning process.
Why does Katy Fire Department also respond to medical emergencies?
As stated above, the first moments in a health-related emergency are key: assessing the level of care required (triage), stabilizing patients, and providing medical support while transport is on its way. Fort Bend County EMS response time from their nearest EMS station can be as much as 9-12 minutes with traffic. By having EMT and licensed paramedics on an engine equipped with ALS equipment within the district, that response time is greatly reduced when immediate care is most critical. This is significant in a number of medical emergencies but is especially critical for older patients as well as pediatric patients where advanced medical care arriving on scene within a few minutes of being dispatched could mean the difference between a tragedy and a positive outcome.
What does it mean that Katy Fire crews can provide ALS medical assistance?
Basic Life Support (BLS) is what a trained first-responder or EMT can provide: CPR, automatic external defibrillator, first aid, and oxygen administration all fall within BLS. Advanced Life Support (ALS) requires a licensed paramedic, who has received a high level of pre-hospital medical training involving key skills not performed by EMTs, including: cardiac monitoring, intubation and advanced airway management, establishing IV's, administering medication, as well as specialized elderly and pediatric care. Trucks are stocked with all necessary equipment to support both BLS and ALS, including pediatric kits and 12-lead EKG.
What training or certification level do the firefighters have and maintain?
Katy Fire Department team members are held to a very high training standard which meets or exceeds both state and national regulation codes and only runs full, four person crews on their engine as outlined in National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) code 1500, section 8.5.7. Additionally, Katy Fire Department only hires full-time firefighters that are TCFP (Texas Commission on Fire Protection) certified and have at least their EMT-B license but with the understanding that they are expected to obtain their full paramedic license as soon as possible. It is Katy Fire Department's stated intention to eventually have all their engines staffed with a flexible, variable-role crew of firefighter/paramedics to further enhance the medical care that can be provided prior to an ambulance arriving on-scene.
What is "mutual aid" and why does our engine respond outside of Firethorne?
Mutual aid is a common practice amongst fire service providers to assist on calls as backup to neighboring agencies and handle the manpower required to safely handle a large scale incident in or out of district. Most contracts allow for this type of reciprocity, and the previous contract for fire protection services allowed ESD 4 to assign the Firethorne engine to calls outside of the district as needed.
Currently, the new contract enhances this standard mutual aid to include the Automatic Aid Assistance Agreement between the District and Katy Fire Department. Importantly for Firethorne, in the event that Engine 3 is fielding calls in our community, Katy Fire Department uses advanced Computer Aided Dispatch (CAD) technology that automatically calls for mutual aid from surrounding fire departments when additional resources are needed. Furthermore, in the event Engine 3 is out of the District assisting one of our neighboring agencies on a significant emergency, Katy Fire's CAD system automatically tasks their nearest available engine company to "back in" at the Firethorne station and handle any Firethorne calls until Engine 3 returns. These partnerships with our surrounding emergency response partners helps assure that when our community faces a major incident which would require more than one engine company to respond, the neighboring resources are ready and willing to assist us.