AFD responds to more than 85,000 calls annually, with approximately 70 percent medical in nature. The most common question we get? “I called 911 for an ambulance; why is a fire truck here?" Now you know why!
Other calls include fires, hazardous conditions, and rescues (cave, high-angle, rope, vehicle, structural, etc.). Our Prevention section does about 25,000 building safety inspections annually; our firefighters do about 11,000 hydrant inspections per year. Our arrest rate for arsons is four times the national average, and we contain 82 percent of structure fires and 92 percent of apartment fires to their room of origin, meaning less spread and damage. All of this is done by about 1,100 employees scattered across 45 fire stations and seven other work sites.
Chief Rhoda Mae Kerr, currently the Fire Chief of the Austin Fire Department and President of the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC), is a fourth-generation firefighter who began her career in the fire service in 1983. Her appointment as President of the IAFC is the first time a female has served in that role in the organization’s 142-year history.
Prior to beginning her tenure in Austin in 2009, Chief Kerr served in the same position with the city of Little Rock, Arkansas for five years. She was also Deputy Fire Chief at Fort Lauderdale, Florida for five years but with that department for more than 20 years; it was the place she began her career in firefighting. Prior to entering the fire service, Chief Kerr was a coach and physical education teacher at the high school level for 12 years.
Chief Kerr, who holds the designation of “Chief Fire Officer” (one of only 1,080 worldwide), has been a member of the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC) since 1991. She is the Past Chair of the Human Relations Committee of the IAFC, Past President of the National Society of Executive Fire Officers (NSEFO), and the past Southwest Director of the National Society of Executive Fire Officers. She currently serves as the Secretary of the Metropolitan Fire Chiefs’ Association, and is actively involved as a member of the FireRescue magazine Editorial Board and the Austin Area Urban League. She is also a member of the Texas Fire Chief’s Association and the Capital Area Fire Chief’s Association, and the International Association of Women in the Fire and Emergency Services. Chief Kerr also serves on the Advisory Committee for St. Edward’s University’s Public Safety Management Program, and was recently honored as a 2013 Girl Scouts of Central Texas Woman of Distinction.
Chief Kerr holds a Master’s in Public Administration (Florida International University), a Bachelor of Arts degree in Physical Education and Health (William Paterson University), an Associate’s degree in Fire Science Technology (Broward Community College), and two certifications from the Harvard University program—one for Senior Executives in State and Local Government—and the other for the National Preparedness Leadership Initiative. She is also a graduate of the National Fire Academy’s Executive Fire Officer Program.
Chief Kerr is an avid sports enthusiast, enjoying cycling, golf, tennis, and skiing.