Emergency Service Districts are essential for Texans’ safety

by | Jul 23, 2020 | Opinion

Most people know that when there is a fire or medical emergency—or a global pandemic—first responders help keep us safe. What may be surprising for many Texans is that many of these first responders are there because of a local emergency services district, or ESD.

As we navigate current economic challenges and budget constraints, it’s imperative that all Texans understand that emergency services districts are essential for all Texans’ safety.

Simply put, an ESD is a political subdivision of the State of Texas, similar to a school district, library district or a hospital district. And, depending on the district, an ESD can provide fire protection, emergency medical services or both.

ESDs are formed by grassroots initiatives that voters, like you, approve at the ballot box to provide reliable funding for fire protection or emergency medical response.

An ESD is not an extension of a state agency or county government—it is an independent governmental entity focused solely on the protection of life and property. Currently, there are around 335 ESDs in Texas.

ESDs directly protect around eight million Texans, as the men and women on the frontlines save numerous lives and make a positive difference in our communities. Along with serving local communities, ESDs often join in a larger effort to combat disasters throughout Texas.

In 2017, when Hurricane Harvey—one of the worst natural disasters Texas has experienced—pummeled through the Texas Coast, ESDs partnered with the Texas Intrastate Fire Mutual Aid System (TIFMAS) to mobilize a record-breaking firefighter deployment and emergency response.

ESD first responders waded through chest-deep waters and even many who were not on call, still volunteered their time. Above all, the ESDs showed genuine care for the community which they serve.

ESD firefighters and equipment are routinely dispatched to combat wildfires that can cover thousands of acres in the state.

Make no mistake, ESDs are essential in keeping all Texans safe. What is also important to know is that they can typically accomplish outstanding service for about one-third to one-half of what municipalities would spend on the same quality of emergency services.

As our nation faces increased unemployment, collapsed oil prices and a sluggish economy, ESD budgets could be strained.

Under the state constitution, ESDs are limited to 10 cents per $100 of property valuation. At the maximum ESD tax rate, a home valued at $300,000 would pay only $300 a year to know that well-trained and well-equipped first responders will be at the door in minutes when there’s an emergency.

ESDs may also collect sales tax. With likely lower property values and sales tax collections ahead, ESDs will face challenges in maintaining their services at the same level.

I encourage all communities to work with their local and state officials to assure that ESDs continue to have access to adequate funding for first responders, stations and equipment. That way, ESDs can continue to provide the services to protect property and life in the communities they serve and in Texas as a whole.

For more stories like this, see the July 23 issue or subscribe online.

By Mark Jack, is the president of the State Association of Fire and Emergency Services (SAFE-D)

 

0 Comments

Related News

We’re global now

We’re global now

No matter how hard we try, we real­ly can’t avoid one another. We live in a world where what takes place some­where else on the globe has a very good chance of affecting us, along with many others. The pandemic, of course, is a useful – if sobering – ex­ample. A virus...

read more
Legislators can help prevent trafficking

Legislators can help prevent trafficking

The COVID-19 pan­demic has produced too many tragedies to tally, but here is one that does not get talked about enough: It has worsened conditions that leave children and youth especially vulnerable to com­mercial sexual exploitation, a human trafficking crime. Human...

read more
Texans urged to roll up their sleeves

Texans urged to roll up their sleeves

Gov. Greg Abbott and other Texas leaders are rolling up their sleeves to get the COVID-19 vaccine and to encourage the public to follow suit. “I will never ask any Texan to do something that I’m not willing to do myself,” Abbott said before getting vaccinated at a...

read more
Accusations rock Attorney General’s office

Accusations rock Attorney General’s office

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is battling back against seven top aides who accuse him of bribery and abuse of office. The aides delivered the accu­sations in a letter to the agency’s human resources director. The Austin American-Statesman and KVUE-TV obtained and...

read more
Pandemic messes with Texas, prompts new message

Pandemic messes with Texas, prompts new message

Even during a pandemic, it’s best to not mess with Texas. Texas Department of Trans­portation officials noticed more personal protective equipment -- face masks, wipes and gloves -- on the side of roads and high­ways, so they called in the big guns for a new round of...

read more
School year brings an Apple for students, too

School year brings an Apple for students, too

Students across Texas returned to campuses last week as schools and universities scrambled to put into place new lesson plans that best accommodate a pandemic. For many school districts, this meant greatly expanding the technological resources of their students to...

read more
Texas tries nation’s first virtual criminal trial

Texas tries nation’s first virtual criminal trial

A Texan’s speeding ticket put her in the legal history books last week. To combat the backlog in criminal cases created by the pandemic, a Travis County justice of the peace conducted the nation’s first virtual criminal trial. The case was livestreamed on YouTube, and...

read more
This is a time of testing for all of us

This is a time of testing for all of us

A few weeks ago, The New York Times ran an article noting that with the U.S. preoccupied by the coronavirus pandemic, Black Lives Matter protests, and massive unemployment, “its competitors are moving to fill the vacuum, and quickly.” Russia, China, North Korea, Iran....

read more