A recent Management Alert Report conducted by the District of Columbia Office of the Inspector General (OIG) found “deficiencies” in the repair and readiness of DC Fire and Emergency Medical Services (FEMS) reserve vehicles.

FEMS maintains a fleet of 401 vehicles (as of March 2012), including more than 90 vehicles held in reserve for mobilization and as replacements for frontline vehicles needing repairs.  

The Feb. 19 report identifies concerns about the condition, operability, and readiness of the FEMS reserve apparatus fleet, as well as deficiencies in repair operations. According to the report, following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, FEMS was criticized for not having an adequate number of vehicles to deploy. This lead to a 2007 Special Order that requires the following vehicles to be on reserve:

  • 12 battalion reserve engines ready for immediate deployment,
  • 10 warehouse reserve engines to replace out-of-service vehicles,
  • six reserve engines to serve as water supply units,
  • two reserve engines and one reserve ladder truck,
  • eight warehouse reserve trucks,
  • two warehouse reserve rescue squads,
  • 10 reserve EMS units, and
  • 20 reserve ambulances.

The report found that many of the vehicles designated as reserves were listed as out of service and not available for immediate deployment. During a six-month period in 2012, between five and nine of 12 battalion reserve engines were out of service; between 0 and one of six water supply engines were out of service; and between 16 and 21 of 31 EMS reserve units were out of service. Several reserve vehicles were inoperative.

The report also stated that FEMS lacks a plan for handling vehicle repair and replacement, with an FEMS official citing the death of an official when a fire truck went out of control due to brake failure; the vehicle was reported to be operating for years with a compromised braking system.

An FEMS official also told the OIG that employees were possibly intentionally damaging vehicles. The alleged tampering activities include puncturing tire sidewalls, tampering with air conditioner lines, and driving ambulances in a low gear to burn out transmissions.

As for repair schedules, the OIG found one truck was brought in 138 times in a 3.5-year period, and some vehicles had been waiting for months for repair.

The report recommended the Chief/FEMS ensure that vehicle repairs are timely and permanent; reserve vehicles are ready for deployment; and data about reserve vehicles and repairs is accurate. It further recommends the Chief/FEMS investigate alleged intentional damage of vehicles and update the 2007 Special Order.

A March 21 response from the Chief of FEMS states the department accepts the recommendations.

For the full report and response, visit the DC OIG page.