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FIREHOUSE Magazine Spotlights 2 MoCo ESDs!

FIREHOUSE magazine recognized two Montgomery County fire stations in their recent Station Design Award Showcase of fire and emergency services facilities. Both Montgomery County ESD 3 & ESD 9 were showcased in FIREHOUSE magazine.

Montgomery County Emergency Services District 9 (ESD 9) took a significant step forward in improving its emergency response capabilities with the completion of Station 81. The design and construction of this facility is a direct response to the challenges that are posed by recurrent severe flooding that hampered the district’s emergency operations in the past. The journey from concept to reality was marked by repeated financial setbacks, but the successful outcome underscores the District’s and Fire Chief Raymond Flannelly’s unwavering commitment to safety, efficiency, prudent resource allocation, and good stewardship of district finances.

A notable highlight of Station 81 is its shared space concept. This design not only fosters collaboration but also serves the needs of multiple organizations. Housing ESD 9 administration offices within the station promotes inter-agency coordination and maximizes resource utilization. Additionally, a private shared space is reserved for Montgomery County Hospital District, the County Emergency Medical Service provider, which exemplifies a strong partnership between emergency response entities.

To enhance the safety of firefighters and emergency personnel, the station employs a Hot Zone design concept, which was developed strategically to mitigate the transmission of contaminants into safe zones that are within the living quarters and the workspaces.

The station’s architecture is centered around pre-engineered metal building technology. Commitment to this philosophy provides for a cost-effective approach that ensures structural integrity while managing expenses. This aligns with the district’s budget-minded approach, which allows it to allocate resources efficiently without compromising quality.

Through the leadership, vision and determination of Chief Flannelly, Station 81 was brought to life. Having personally experienced the challenges of flooding at the existing fire station, his wish for a flood-resistant facility finally became a reality.

MCESD 9’s new Station 81 stands as a model of how thoughtful design, cost efficiency, safety considerations, and collaborative efforts can come together to create a hub of effective emergency response.

Montgomery County stands out as one of the nation’s fastest-growing counties. To meet the increasing demands of this growth, Montgomery County Emergency Services District #3 (MCESD3) strengthened its capabilities by establishing the new Fire Station 31.

The layout of the station, which was sketched by Fire Chief Leonard Mikeska, showcases an understanding of the challenges that modern firefighters face. Within the station, nine private dormitories for firefighters meet the team’s requirements while making efficient use of space. Three dorms are designated for officers.  Each of those spaces are equipped with private offices.

Recognizing the importance of quick and effective medical response, the station incorporates a dedicated triage area. It enables the responders to provide immediate medical attention to those who are in need, which underscores their commitment to serving the community in times of distress.

The design of the station prioritizes both functionality and the health of firefighters. Five apparatus bays offer efficient housing and maintenance space for emergency vehicles. Moreover, the large, modern gym highlights the importance of physical fitness for firefighters.

Although highlighting these modern comforts, the architectural design of the station still takes into consideration the limitations of the budget for the project. The construction involved a combination of wood framing and pre-engineered metal elements, which effectively demonstrates a balance of construction affordability and functionality.

By means of the MCESD 3 Board and under the leadership of Fire Chief Leonard Mikeska, Station 31 stands as an example of responsible fiscal administration and steadfast commitment to the safety of the community. The station demonstrates that detailed planning and careful financial oversight effectively can meet the needs of a community in a responsible manner.

Chief Flannelly and Chief Mikeska (President of Montgomery County Fire Chiefs Associations) have over 80 years of combined experience protecting the communities they serve. As their careers are coming to a close, Chief Mikeska tasked Chief Flannelly with one more project – That was seeking Federal Assistance through Commissioners Court for updated handheld radios for each Firefighter in Montgomery County. Back in 2007 Montgomery County Commissioners agreed to purchase the necessary equipment to become part of the Houston Galveston Regional 800 MHz radio system. This system was going to be predominately used for the Sheriff’s Department. The fire departments followed the lead of the Commissioners Court and transitioned to the 800 MHz system.

Flannelly states going to the 800 MHz system was in the best interest of the citizens of Montgomery County but was also very expensive for each Emergency Service District (ESD).

“We were fortunate to have most of the funding covered by two federal grants, UASI and AFG.,” Flannelly said. “However, like all electronic devices, the end of life of those 16-year-old radios is near, and the cost of radios has almost doubled. List price approximately $7,500.00 with limited accessories per radio.”

With the County receiving millions of dollars in federal funds for the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), the Fire Chief’s Association approached the Commissioners Court on January 11, 2022, to ask for some Federal Assistance to purchase radios, however, the Court Deferred agenda item 17B at that time.

Over the past two months, Flannelly and other Fire Chiefs have been meeting with our county elected Officials as well as the Office of Emergency Management. The main purpose was to ask for any federal assistance they could provide the ESD’s to place an updated handheld radio in the hands of our Firefighters across the County

The plan was to provide our elected officials information to understand that not all ESDs can afford to purchase these radios and provide documentation from 2010 showing that the current radios were grant-funded at the time.

‘Never in the history of the Fire Chief Association have we asked for any County Funds, nor should we,” Flannelly said.

A few highlights that were presented to Judge Keough, and Commissioners Riley, Gray, and Walker were as follows:

  1. Approximately 200 Firefighters are on duty each day in Montgomery County.
  2. Approximately 275 calls for service are handled per day Countywide. And radios are utilized on every one of those calls.
  3. We are on track to respond to over 88,000 Fire and EMS calls this year.
  4. The cost of handheld radios almost doubled, from $4,900.00 to approximately $7,500.00 per radio without extra batteries and external microphones.
  5. The growth rate of Montgomery County challenges available ESD’s financial resources.

Flannelly learned two things over the past few months about our elected officials, they all have very busy schedules, and they are committed to public safety. It was an honor and a privilege speaking with these gentlemen who overwhelmingly support taking care of the Firefighters who take care of us.

When asked about Pct. 3 Commissioner James Noack, Flannelly stated he had an excellent conversation on November 3, 2023, with his Chief of Staff.

“I am certain he is just as busy as the other Commissioners that took some time to meet with us,” Chief Flannelly said. “Plus, he recently announced his ‘Keep Your Commissioner Campaign’ for reelection, which will probably take up what very little free time he has.”

“I have never had the opportunity to meet Commissioner Noack, but I look forward to doing so, and feel certain that he will help in any way he can to assist in enhancing the safety of the Firefighters in Montgomery County,” Chief Flannelly said.

Chief Mikeska was unavailable for comment.

 

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