KATY MAGAZINE NEWS
October 26, 2022
By Natalie Cook Clark
The Katy area continues to grow with businesses and residential development. Local police, fire, and EMS services are actively hiring and working to expand services to match the area’s immense growth.
Photo credit: Harris County/Waller County ESD 200
Katy Emergency Services Work to Keep Up with Growth
The Katy area is one of the fastest growing areas in Texas and even the Nation. Katy ISD plans four new schools in the next three years to accommodate the projected growth as more master-planned communities and apartment buildings continue to flood the area bringing in a rapid population surge.
Just as the school District works to keep up with the growth so must local emergency services. While all of Katy continues to grow one of the fastest growing areas is the northwest quadrant in communities such as Elyson, Sunterra, Katy Lakes and other fast-growing neighborhoods.
“If I’m looking at things as ESD 48, we’re pretty much landlocked, but we are hiring to match population growth,” says Jason Tharp, Battalion Chief of Community Risk Reduction/PIO for Harris County ESD 48.
Tharp, who is currently running for Harris County ESD N. 200 Commissioner says that managing emergency services amongst such growth is essential to the public’s interest.
ESD 48 is actively hiring with 80% of the hiring being focused on the EMS side. According to Tharp this is needed as apartments continue to pop up in the area jumping population numbers. They also plan to add another station to help with the growth.
“We have property by Katy Christian Ministries on Porter Road for a 6th Station,” says Tharp.
Harris County/Waller County ESD 200 is the Largest District in the Region
Harris County/Waller ESD 200 is seeing the most growth and is already one of the largest Districts in the region by servicing 16 counties, 4 ISD’s, and covering over 604 square miles.
“Forecasting is key,” says Waller-Harris ESD 200 Director Tim Gibson. “We need to understand public administration and where is that growth going.” Gibson admits he has to think more like an administrator than a fire chief to manage the growth in his District.
Developing quality employees and volunteers has become a challenge as the Nation continues to see a rapid volunteer decline. Schools and training centers that were shut down during the pandemic have greatly impacted the quality of employees. Getting training is a priority now.
“We continue to see a shift from urban working/duel working families,” explains Gibson. “Days of the bell rings and people are done with work is done. Do we have enough volunteers to keep it up? No. It’s a nationwide volunteer rapid decline.”
With such challenges Gibson routinely asks, how do we grow a career fire department?
“We are getting on the front side before dirt is being moved,” explains Gibson.
Currently Harris County/Waller ESD 200 has 13 stations, 170 volunteers and 150 employees.
“We have to follow the market and do what is best for our residents,” says Gibson. “A home 5 miles from the station will impact their insurance.”
Their District recently got a grant approved to help grow staff while revenue catches up. Still they need at least 2 more stations to meet growth, but they have more capabilities than most Districts.
“Mother Nature throws us curve balls, but we are prepared,” says Gibson. “We have more equipment and are more prepared then we were 5 years ago.”
Photo credit: Harris County/Waller County ESD 200
Harris County/Waller 200 ESD reports having 13 tanker trucks, 6 swift water rescue boats and half a dozen water rescue vehicles.
“There’s a new memorandum for incident command,” explains Gibson. “All area chiefs meet once a month. We’re bringing all the leaders to the table.”
Such meets helps area leaders to better prepare for disasters such as Hurricane Harvey. This helps departments to know each other’s capabilities and who they can call on when they need help.
Harris County ESD 48 is known for the preventative programs and risk reduction. Harris County/Waller County ESD 200 plans to offer CPR/Stop the Bleed classes and home inspections.
“We try to put ourselves out of business,” says Gibson.
While they currently lack in size to match area growth, they understand the importance of leveraging technology to get ahead of a problem. Recently they deployed a drone that saved a 20 acre grass fire from spreading to 80 acres.
The greatest challenge is money. Most people don’t understand what is involved in running a fire department. It takes $4,200 to outfit one fire fighter. This is an overwhelming figure in a District looking to double and triple in numbers.
Many Agencies Looking to Hire
Katy also grows on the Fort Bend County side resulting in hiring in Fort Bend County Sheriff’s Office and Fulshear Police Department to have the numbers to service the area.
As the Katy area continues to grow, local agencies will continue to hire and grow to keep up. EMS being a big player in the hiring as agencies strive to do what is best for their residents.
“EMS should always look for the best interest of the patient and not focus on the billing,” says Tharp.