Fire Chief Interview: FIRE CHIEF CHARLES HOOD San Antonio, TX, Fire Department

Firehouse: You recently gave a “state of the department” address. How did that come about?   Hood: As you are well aware, communication within any organization can be a challenge, especially in a large metropolitan fire department. We have...


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Firehouse: Does the department have a mentoring program?

 

Hood: We began development of a mentoring program in 2011, and hope to roll out the program in the very near future. The goal of our program will be to assist our newly promoted fire officers with career and character development; enhance their leadership skills and abilities; pass along institutional knowledge; assist in career progression and succession; and continue overall improvement of the department as a whole.

 

Firehouse: You have said the firefighters should have a roundtrip ticket home. How is safety playing a role in keeping members safe?

 

Hood: The safety of our members is absolutely the number-one priority of this administration and each member of our organization is fully aware of its importance. Our Safety Division is comprised of a division chief, executive officer and three captains assigned to a 24-hour shift. In addition to incident responses, the Safety Division is responsible for firefighter injury and death investigation, inspection of PPE (personal protective equipment), injury and accident analysis and trend identification.

Last year, we implemented our Vehicle Accident Review Board, which is comprised of line personnel. We want to ensure that accidents involving our vehicles are properly reviewed, fairly assessed and are consistent and predictable. It is a great risk-management tool to utilize peers to identify contributing factors and hopefully prevent future accidents.

Firehouse: Please describe your mandatory wellness/fitness program.

 

Hood: Having been a part of the Phoenix Fire Department and witnessing the development of a mandatory wellness/fitness program, I saw the benefits first hand. The program saved lives and enhanced the longevity and lifestyles of our members in Phoenix, including several of my friends. I wanted the same opportunity for my firefighters in San Antonio to enjoy a healthy career and a long, healthy retirement.

Our mandatory wellness/fitness program is modeled after the International Association of Fire Fighters/International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFF/IAFC) Wellness-Fitness Initiative and in accordance with National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) Standard 1582. We worked with our Local Union 624 to ensure that our program was a positive, individualized program that was non-punitive in nature. We are starting our second round of physicals as we speak.

Our Wellness Fitness Center is equipped with commercial-grade equipment so our members can work out on or off duty. We have also opened several satellite fitness centers throughout the city to provide additional locations for our personnel to work out on or off duty. We have a staff dietician who is available to meet with our employees and their families to create customized eating programs. She also visits the stations on request and prepares meals with on-duty personnel.

Growing up in the business, we were always told that you had to be tough. Our culture expected you to do your job no matter what and get back on the truck. Our firefighters and paramedics are with us for an average of 30-plus years. The emotional and mental health of them and their families is critical to our mission of providing great internal customer service.

We have an Employee Assistance Program (EAP), Peer Support Program (PSP), Volunteer Chaplaincy Program and staff psychologist that are all available 24 hours a day. These are all valuable resources for our members and their families.

 

Firehouse: How has the department embraced the use of new technology?

 

Hood: SAFD was one of the first departments in the country to adopt electronic patient care records 15 years ago. We continue to be on the leading edge of technology with a state-of-the-art GIS-based CAD (computer-aided dispatching) system, AVL (automatic vehicle location) dispatching and mobile data computers in the apparatus that provide routing to the scene as well as pre-plan data for the address.