HFD Chief Dismisses Questions About Flood Response as "Rhetoric"

HFD Chief Dismisses Questions About Flood Response as "Rhetoric"
Photo by Abrahan Garza

In an internal memo, Houston Fire Department Chief Terry Garrison acknowledged that HFD needs to overhaul its budget and better train firefighters in swift water rescues— and then, later in the same memo, he reduced the recent questions about HFD's handling of the Memorial Day flood to nothing more than "rhetoric."

The Houston Chronicle reported last night that Garrison sent out a memo saying he will "re-evaluate" the department's budget allocation toward swift water training, adding that HFD firefighters did everything they could during the Memorial Day flood.

"This should not be lost in the rhetoric that has taken place recently," Garrison said in the memo.

By "rhetoric," of course, Garrison means the hundreds of pages of recently released HFD documents that show just how poorly prepared his department was for the flood, including a so-called "After-Action" report by an HFD captain calling for better rescue training and more resources, along with maintenance records that detail the use of leaky rescue boats. Garrison even acknowledged these issues earlier in his memo to staff, saying "our training needs are greater than our budget" and "we will re-evaluate." 

Let's just take a moment to remind Garrison what "rhetoric" means, courtesy of our friends Miriam and Webster: 

"rhetoric: language that is intended to influence people and that may not be honest or reasonable."

Questions about HFD's response to the Memorial Day flood were raised in HFD's own internal documents, which revealed that HFD used leaky rescue boats, conducts swift water rescue training in calm water, and generally lacked enough flood-response resources. Regardless of whether Garrison thinks that criticism amounts to mere "rhetoric," his memo reveals that HFD is at least aware of the systemic failures its firefighters faced while responding to the flood and is taking steps to make changes. How soon those changes come and how effective they will be remains to be seen. 

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