Years of HFD response data missing from city’s website

Between 2017 and 2020, on average, it takes 2 minutes longer to get to emergencies

Some patients waiting to be admitted into hospitals for hours

HOUSTON – They are the gold standard metric to measure a fire department’s effectiveness at responding quickly to emergencies, but HFD is headed in the wrong direction.

KPRC 2 Investigates was curious when we noticed missing data on the city’s website -- the “Average 1st Unit Response Time” is missing for the last three years.

In 2017, the last year it was reported on the website, the figure was 6.03 minutes, which is equivalent to 6:02.

After several email messages, calls, and a trip to city hall, Wednesday afternoon, HFD Chief Sam Pena responded with information about the metric, including the figure for 2020. He said the figure is now 8:12.

A shocking figure due to the variations in response time usually fluctuates by only seconds. A two-minute, ten-second increase from 2017 is troubling. It signifies a big slowdown in terms of fire department emergency response in one of the nation’s largest cities.

Chief Sam Pena sent the following response in regards to the figure:

“Our department’s official annual response times are published in the annual budget fire department tab (page III-4)

More granular and technical performance information is listed in our Standards of Cover (SOC) document (attachment). This performance information in the SOC is part of the evaluation done for our Accreditation from the Commission on Fire Accreditation International (CFAI). It is a 5-year accreditation. We received our Re-Accreditation this year.

The best practice in the industry is to move away from “average” response time to “90th Percentile” reporting. That is a different metric that requires further explanation. We have been in the process of education and report development for the new metric model.”