The Prince George’s County Fire Department is clashing with CountyStat over data that showed that the county had six stations with high failure to respond (FTR) rates.
Prince George’s Fire/EMS spokesman Mark Brady said that CountyStat used old statistics and that the county no longer has a high failure rate. According to county standards, if a fire is not responded to in one minute, it counts as a missed call. The alarm is then passed to the next nearest firehouse.
“We have made tremendous strides in service delivery,” Brady said. “It’s unfortunate that CountyStat used those statistics, but they did. Today we don’t have failure to responds.”
On July 11, Prince George’s CountyStat released a report measuring the county’s fire stations’ response times from fiscal year 2005 through fiscal year 2011. The report showed that six stations, Capitol Heights, Riverdale Heights, Boulevard Heights, Forestville, Bowie and West Lanham Hills, all had high FTR.
According to the CountyStat report, Riverdale Heights had a 31.1 percent FTR with Capitol Heights at 30.2 percent, Boulevard Heights at 22.1 percent, Forestville at 11.9 percent, Bowie at 8.1 percent and West Lanham Hills at 7.7 percent.
As a result, CountyStat director Adam Ortiz sent a memo, dated July 13, to Prince George’s Fire Chief Marc Bashoor asking him to provide details on those stations and respond with solutions on how to rectify the problem.
Making matters worse for the department was an Aug. 4 report in the Washington Examiner that brought extra scrutiny to the topic; a topic that Brady said is being unfairly portrayed.
Brady said the problem lies in the different methods that the two agencies use to measure FTR. Brady said the Fire/EMS department uses numbers contained in the Maryland National Capital Park and Planning Commission Approve Public Safety Master Plan, which is a ten-year plan that was adopted by the Prince George’s County Council in 2008. Instead he said CountyStat is using an old budget model that is no longer applicable given the current financial constraints.
Meanwhile, Bashoor released a statement responding to the Examiner report saying that CountyStat needed to be more in touch with the fire department’s realities before choosing how it would measure how effective the department is in responding to emergencies.
“CountyStat goals need to take our current budgetary, staffing and operational realities into account when deciding what metrics should be employed to determine adequate response times in our communities given current conditions." Bashoor said, "We recognize that there are certainly specific challenges and we are diligently working to overcome them.”
Overall, the CountyStat report stated that the county’s fire suppression response times were slowly increasing. The percent of fire engine responses arriving within six minutes decreased from 51 percent in FY 2005 to 42 percent in FY 2011.
Fire officials are hopeful that the hiring of 48 new recruits over the next year will help with the response time. The department received a $2.6 million Congressional Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response Grant and will use the money to hire 18 new recruits this year. There will be an additional 30 recruits added in the first two quarters of 2013 from funding allocated in this year’s county approved budget Brady said.