It has been two months since D.C.'s new fire chief arrived from Seattle to overhaul the District's troubled Fire and EMS department. Gregory Dean sat down with FOX 5 for a wide-ranging interview on his plans for the department and how to best improve EMS care in the city.
Chief Dean has not made any major changes to the department just yet and appears to be easing himself into the job. He is taking time to meet with firefighters and EMS providers at firehouses around the city. He is also getting ideas and listening to concerns as he attempts to tackle one of the toughest jobs in the country.
As we got to know the chief, we asked him about the troubles facing the department as well as his life off the job.
First up, when it comes to delivering first-rate EMS care, we asked him how he plans on getting it done.
"You're looking at 24/7 -- running of all the apparatus all over the city," he said. "You are looking at the fact that we are unable to do the type of maintenance we want to do on our vehicles because they are gone all the time. You are looking at the fact that because of all this running, we are challenged with ensuring everybody gets the proper training to be able to do their job, so we are looking in those areas to be able to hopefully take a step back so we can address all these issues."
We asked him about response times and slowing units down.
"If we can get them back in service so that they can take a deep breath, that's what the slowdown looks like," said Dean. "The slowdown means that we can then get our rigs to the shop so that we can get them in service. It means we will have time to do more training.
"But the biggest challenge we have is that we have so many units in service running alarms and not being able to get back in service for the longest of time, which means we have to draw resources from other parts of the city -- increases response time, deal with patient care and everything else. So that's what I mean by slow it down."
He spoke to us about recruiting.
"We had almost 8,000 people that applied for the exam," he said. "We ended up testing around 4,000 people. Of that 4,000, about 1,900 were D.C. residents, so we got an outstanding response and now we will move to the next step of grading and preparing to have an October class off this list."
How will he improve emergency medical services?
"I have said that we have looked at putting more people at the hospital, have more administrators at the hospital to try to reduce the drop time," Dean said. "On the other side of the coin, we would be willing to even look at private ambulance to keep our units in service. A lot of room in between, so I am telling you that when I meet with my people, I say, 'Now you have heard that, you can go outside that, you can get inside that.' We are looking at all options as we move forward to try to address this issue."
We also threw him some less serious questions. Since he is coming from Seattle, who is the better quarterback: Russell Wilson or Robert Griffin III?
"Tough choice, but Russell won by a couple of Super Bowls," he told us.
How about Nelson Cruz or Bryce Harper?
"Nelson is really looking good isn't he? I will tell you this though -- I can actually be a Nationals fan because the Mariners are in the American League," he said.
Have you found good coffee?
"Yes sir, I found the Starbucks when I got here," he laughed.
The chief also told us he is a diehard Seahawks fan, has settled into the downtown area, hasn't found a favorite restaurant yet, but coming from Seattle, he is partial to seafood.
Dean also said the department has gotten most of its ladder trucks back in service. Just last week, they had the full complement of 16 trucks before one broke down.