- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 6, 2003

Acting D.C. Fire and Emergency Services Chief Adrian Thompson yesterday said getting the city's ambulances to emergency scenes in a consistently timely manner will be his priority if he is confirmed by the D.C. Council during a hearing today, but he warned it could take two or three years.
"EMS did not get that way overnight, it's not going to change overnight," Chief Thompson told The Washington Times yesterday. "It's not going to be quick. It's not going to be soon. It's a long process."
Chief Thompson, 54, promised the improvements during an extended interview about his plans for the department. He said since his appointment in May as interim fire chief, he and his staff have been working to identify the most critical needs in the department and are now ready to implement some plans.
"After the confirmation we're going to make some changes," Chief Thompson said.
Chief Thompson said he is embarking on an aggressive hiring program to add medics and decrease ambulance response times that soared under the administration of former Chief Ronnie Few.
"The whole issue with EMS is staffing," he said, "coming up with the bodies, which we have very few of. I'm looking at a way to bring people on board a lot faster and a lot sooner, get them trained faster."
Some of the changes will include job preferences for firefighters who have experience as paramedics or intermediate paramedics.
The chief also plans to fill about nine vacancies in the 52-member communications division that will help dispatch emergency calls more quickly. Hiring preferences in those cases will be given to bilingual dispatchers.
Council member Kathy Patterson, Ward 3 Democrat and chairman of the Judiciary Committee that oversees the fire department, said she hired a private investigator with experience conducting FBI background checks to examine Chief Thompson's background.
"I've heard nothing bad about him," Mrs. Patterson said.
Chief Thompson, a lifelong District resident, has served in the fire department since May 1970. His resume includes courses in engineering at North Carolina A&T; University and service in the Naval Reserve, including a tour of active duty in Vietnam.
He said another of his goals has been to increase standards of accountability within the department.
"There were issues with personnel in terms of doing their job. We're definitely making people do their jobs," he said. "I can't speak for past administrations, but as an agency director, I have the ability to establish standards for our personnel about the jobs they perform. You joined us, we didn't join you."
"I think the mayor made a good choice in getting someone from within the agency," Lt. Ray Sneed said. Lt. Sneed was an original supporter of Chief Few, but later became one of his most severe critics. He said the mayor and the council have to commit to Chief Thompson beyond just their nomination and confirmation.
"If you don't fully fund the agency, Chief Thompson will be another failed chief in two years," Lt. Sneed said.
Chief Thompson said he and the D.C. Firefighters Association may sometimes have to "agree to disagree," but they always retain a dialogue a sentiment shared by Lt. Sneed, the union president.

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