Wednesday, September 29, 2010

AFD Has Great Showing in Silicon Labs Marathon Relay

AFD had a very good showing for the September 25 Silicon Labs Austin Marathon Relay benefitting Junior Achievement of Austin. More than 500 teams of five members each ran various segments of a full 26.2 mile marathon (12k, 10k, 10k, 5k, 5k). City of Austin teams were eligible to register free and AFD had seven teams participate. One AFD team of elite runners, "Team Benny" (in honor of FF Benny Balderrama), placed second overall with a total time of 2:39:30. That group was led by FF Lance Parker (E20/C) who led off the 12k loop with a fine time of 41:17. Other team members were FS Nathan Childress (E8/A), FF Patrick Healey (E9/B), FS Tyler Eads (E6/A), and FS Larry Clowry (E8/C).

There was also an AFD Women’s Team, an AFD Over 50 Team, and several other Station 18 “Benny Balderama” teams.

Way to go AFD runners!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

QlikView Award

Congratulations to Elizabeth Gray, Reggie Williams, and DC Doug Fowler, who submitted AFD for a "Best Practices in Business Intelligence and Analytics" award from Computer World magazine; they accepted our "Finalist" award from the publication last week. Nominations in our category (Running the Business on BI) use predictive analytics to pinpoint opportunities, and have enabled broad information access and delivery for strategic decision-making. Almost 90 entries were submitted from all over the country.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Never Too Early For Fire Safety

Check out the article (below) that appeared in Saturday's Statesman about teaching children fire safety. This is the second in a two-parter that started on the "Mama Drama" blog. Special thanks to FF Tim LaFuente and the crew from Station 30 (A shift) for representing AFD so well!

Never too early to consider fire safety
Tara Trower, Raising Austin
September 25, 2010

My husband, Dave, is the kind of guy who prepares for the unexpected. He's the one who double-checks the car seats, and he refuses to live in a house at the bottom of a hill (lest it flood). He's also thought of every possible escape route in the house in case of fire.

Recently, Dave wondered how our daughters, who are 1 and 3 and sleep in the same room, would get out of the house during an emergency. They are too young to do it on their own, I warned, and asserted that they were probably better off staying put until we or a firefighter came to get them. That's when we realized that the only way into the room from the outside was by breaking the window directly over Elizabeth's crib. Not good.

"Do not put the crib under a window," says Tim LaFuente, who is in charge of fire education for the Austin Fire Department. "It might not look nice, but it is definitely safer" to place it on a window-free wall. Beds, though, are fine under the window because older children can move freely.

I had called LaFuente the day after our conversation about exit routes, mostly because I wanted to know what else I had neglected to consider.

His No. 1 recommendation: Teach kids to sleep with their doors closed. Fires rarely start in bedrooms, and those that do are largely because of cigarettes and candles. So the chances of an actual fire starting in the baby's room are slim, he said. A closed door gives extra time for rescuers.

"You should be sleeping with your door closed, too, for the same reason," he said. "I know it might take some time, because kids like the security of having the door cracked. But tell them they are safer with the door closed."

Kids younger than 5 can learn an exit plan with a lot of practice, but they can't be relied upon to test the door with the back of their hand. They also might not even hear the fire alarm. (Studies show that kids younger than 12 often do not hear alarms because they sleep more deeply than adults. LaFuente recommends smoke alarms that allow parents to record a personal warning message, but those models can be tough to find in stores or online. For more on this, see our Mama Drama blog,

So what should parents do? Make sure there are working smoke detectors throughout the house. Practice your exit plans with your children. Show them how to touch the backs of doors before opening them. In case of fire or suspected fire, get everyone out, then call 911 from another home; don't waste time tracking down your cell phone. And once you get out, stay out. Half of people who go back into a burning house don't come back out, LaFuente says.

What's the 30-year veteran's other biggest piece of advice?

Make sure kids know not to be afraid of firefighters. "When they are dressed in all that gear, a firefighter can be intimidating. Kids will hide, making rescuing them difficult," he says.
The Austin Fire Department makes dozens of visits to area preschools and day-care facilities, just so kids have a chance to see firefighters up close, touch the equipment and try on the air masks. If your kid isn't in day-care or might be too skittish for the group presentation, just take them to your local station. If the firefighters aren't on call, they will give him or her a demonstration. (They will also check those car seats for you.)

LaFuente invited me to sit in on one of the presentations at Little Munchkins Learning Center in North Austin. The kids were excited about the fire truck from Station 30 at a distance, but up close and personal, you could see the concern in their eyes, especially the younger ones. There were some tears, although not as many as during some visits, the firefighters assured me.

Each kid who did melt down got a personal pep talk from Fire Specialist Matt Heck.

"It's OK to be scared. All that stuff looks pretty strange," he said as he knelt down to console one tearful 3-year-old. "But if we come to your house, even if you are scared, don't hide. Please. Can you promise me?"

The little boy sniffles and nods but is still emphatic about not approaching the fire truck. Maybe next year.

But in the meantime, Heck and his colleagues are happy that at least the preschooler knows who they are now.

Next steps for us? Moving that crib and a family field trip to our local fire station.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Mama Drama

Check out this post from the "Mama Drama" blog, part of the Austin American-Statesman. Kudos to FF Tim LaFuente and the crew from Station 30 who assisted the reporter with her story.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

A Hodge Podge of Stuff to Share

  1. Congratulations to Fire Specialist J.J. (Janpalach) Gonzalez (Eng20/C). This Friday, September 24, he is being sworn in as a U.S. citizen at the Joe C. Thompson center on the UT Campus. The ceremony time is 2:00 p.m. for anyone who'd like to go and support him.
  2. Chief Kerr was invited to address the UT football team after practice last week and presented Coach Brown with an AFD Challenge Coin (see photos below)!

3. In case you haven't heard, the Public Safety Hockey Benefit game on September 11--which benefited FF Brien Brown's (Eng20/A) son--was a huge success! Almost $8,000 was raised so hats off to all of you who gave and supported this family in their time of need.

4. Engine 8/C was recently called to the cardiac cath lab at NAMC to use their Lucas device on a patient there. Dr. Hinchey sent the following note to Chief of Staff Harry Evans recognizing the crew and their efforts:

"I explained to the crew that they had taken part in a very significant 1st step for the system. As far as I know this was the first attempt in Austin to use the device. I am hoping this paves the way to increased use in the future. I told the crew that to my knowledge the use of a Lucas device during cardiac catheterization had only been reported 20-40 times in the world. As it turns out this may have been erroneous. I was looking up some literature to send the cardiologist (to keep him enthusiastic about it) and I came across some articles that indicated a study published in June that had 43 patients in it. This proves you can't look away from the literature for a minute without something changing...If you speak with the crew please send them my thanks again. They were part of what I hope will be an historic moment for the system, even if it has been done more times than I told them."

5. Todd Bircher, a member of the Austin Police Department's Pipe and Drum Corps, sent the following note to Chief Kerr in recognition of the efforts of several of our members at a recent funeral. Read on:

"Due to the tragic death of Cedar Park Police Officer Leonard Reed, the Austin Police Pipe and Drum Corps (PDC) was asked to perform at his funeral services held on Wednesday, August 25th. The PDC would have been unable to properly fulfill its role without the participation of three of your firefighters and musicians: Fire Specialist Andre De La Reza, Fire Specialist Don Caldwell, and Firefighter Coitt Kessler. Their dedication to duty, as well as the honor they brought to Officer Reed and the Austin Fire Department, was beyond reproach. We have one chance to provide the proper tribute and reverence befitting our fallen brothers and sisters. Your firefighters ensured those honors will endure in the hearts and minds of Officer Reed’s wife, two sons, family, and friends forever. For that reason, I cannot thank them enough or you for allowing them to assist us in this effort."

Friday, September 10, 2010

Also This Weekend...

Thursday, September 9, 2010

September 11, 2010 Events

  • 7:30 a.m.: Annual memorial service to remember those firefighters who lost their lives on September 11. Buford Fire Tower on Lady Bird Lake, Cesar Chavez and Congress (open to the public).
  • 10:00 a.m.: Austin firefighters will climb the Pleasant Valley Drill Tower in full turnout gear, an air pack, and a hose bundle. Firefighters will make the number of up and down flights which equals roughly the height of the World Trade Center. All done in complete silence and it takes about an hour (open to the public).
  • 6:00 p.m.: AFD will participate in a ceremony at the UT vs. Wyoming game whereby 500 first responders from the Austin area will be recognized at halftime (you must have a game ticket to be present).
Please keep all public safety first responders in your thoughts on this day.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Chief Kerr Wins Critics' Choice Award from Austin Chronicle

This week, the Austin Chronicle published its annual "Best of" awards list. Chief Kerr won an award from the critics in the "Politics and Personalities" category (see below). Congratulations Chief Kerr!

Best Uniform on a City Official: Fire Chief Rhoda Mae Kerr

This is a woman who knows how to take the heat, as well as give off some sparks of her own whenever she appears in uniform. And it's not just any uniform. As chief of the Austin Fire Department, Rhoda Mae Kerr presents an authoritative figure in her crisp white shirt embellished with her status and provenance, paired with perfectly tailored slacks that keep your eyes glued to her even as she glides from a room, blond hair swinging. And don't mistake the nature of our focus: There is absolutely nothing frivolous about this woman's job or the woman herself. Definitely one of Austin's best, Chief Kerr exemplifies great leadership peppered with sparkling wit and abundant charm.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Kat Casey Featured in L Style/G Style Magazine

Our very own FF Kat Casey (Q35/B) is this month's cover girl and feature story in L Style/G Style magazine, the city's leading publication for the gay and lesbian community. You can check it out here:

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Benefit Hockey Game for FF Brien Brown's Son

The Public Safety Hockey Team will be holding a benefit on Saturday, September 11 at 6:00 p.m. at Chapparal Ice (14200 IH-35) for Braden Brown, son of FF Brien Brown (E20/A). Please see the flyer for more information on how you can donate either at the game or online:

AFD Receives Goldfeder Award

While in Chicago last week at the annual Fire-Rescue International conference, Chief Kerr picked up the Billy Goldfeder Fire Service Organizational Safety Award, presented by the International Association of Fire Chiefs. You might recall that BC Tom Dodds and the Wellness staff nominated AFD for this prestigious award.