Archive for April 1st, 2014

Does Chicago have a shortage of ambulances? (more)

Some recent articles about the controversy in Chicago with EMS responses and the availability of ambulances;

This from CBSChicago about a memo to dispatchers:

The CBS 2 Investigators and the Better Government Association have been warning about an apparent shortage of Chicago ambulances and paramedics. The result: dangerous delays for patients needing emergency care.

So far, it seems the city is trying to cover the problem up instead of fixing it. In the meantime, the response times for ambulances are just getting worse.

“Anybody available downtown that can take a run,” a dispatcher’s voice crackles through the scanner speaker.

These are the types of calls paramedics say happen every day. “It’s clear they have no ambulances and it clearly validates what we’ve been saying that they need more ambulances,” said paramedic field chief Pat Fitzmaurice.

But now, city officials apparently don’t want the media or anyone else with a scanner to hear some of those transmissions asking for help. They are asking dispatchers to watch what they say.

CBS 2 and the BGA obtained a copy of a memo written by a supervisor at the Office of Emergency Management. It called shout-outs for any available ambulances: “not an acceptable practice.”

The memo instructs dispatchers to, “Avoid terminology like we have no ALS (advanced life support) ambulances available,”….particularly when they have to send a basic life support ambulance to the scene and a fire engine with a paramedic on board. Basic life support ambulances do not have paramedics and the same equipment as advanced life ambulances.

Dispatchers should use ambulance numbers to instruct staff in the field on what to do in those cases, the memo said, adding, “Hopefully we can get the message across without highlighting the fact that no ALS unit is available.”

The memo also concedes that, “We all realize that certain times we are inundated with runs and lack of resources.”

This is from

A city-issued memo obtained by CBS Chicago asks dispatchers to watch what they say, calling shout-outs for available ambulances “not an acceptable practice” and instructing dispatchers to “avoid terminology like we have no ALS ambulances available” so as not to highlight the fact. Written by a supervisor at the Office of Emergency Management, the memo also states, “We all realize that certain times we are inundated with runs and lack of resources.”

Better Government Association CEO and President Andy Shaw said the city should be addressing it.

A spokeswoman from Chicago’s Office of Emergency Management said the memo is an “informal internal document” that serves as a reminder to dispatchers to use “approved protocol and professionalism.”

CBS has continued coverage of long response times, including incidents where it took 16 minutes for an ambulance to respond to a woman struck by a postal truck while crossing the street, 22 minutes for an elderly patient complaining of chest pains, and 26 minutes for an ALS response to the home of an elderly woman having trouble breathing.

A spokesman for the Fire Department said the 26-minute response time was “unacceptable” and the incident is under investigation. In a written statement, the Fire Department said it is conducting a review of its ambulances to ensure deployment meet the needs of Chicago.

Also from

The head of most EMS operations is the communication center. The responsibility is huge. It is the first point of contact for the community when reporting medical emergencies.

[Dispatchers] coordinate the system’s resources, trying to match the appropriate unit to the appropriate incident. Dispatchers use various forms of technology to help make those decisions: software, GPS, dispatch algorithms, among others. The system has to be able to send the appropriate resources at the right time to avoid going to a zero-level condition. Sometimes that’s unavoidable, but regulating the system to minimize a zero-level condition can help reduce the possibility.

How does Chicago keep track of their resources? It seems a little strange that a dispatcher doesn’t know where the units are at any given time. While Chicago is a big system, other similarly sized systems seem to be able to tell which ambulance should go where at any point in time. Is this a sign of a larger issue? If there are ways to increase the effectiveness of system operations, throwing more ambulances at the problem isn’t necessarily the fix.

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Sgt. Michael James Hoff, U.S. Army Ret., 1947-2014

It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of Sgt. Michael James Hoff, U.S. Army of Carol Stream FD Deputy Chief Robert Hoff, Chicago FD Fire Commissioner Ret.  Sgt. Hoff suffered a critical head wound in October of 1967 during the eighth month of his tour in Vietnam, when a mortar shell struck his armored troop transport vehicle while in hostile territory.

As a wounded warrior veteran, he worked through life with many physical and mental challenges, which increasingly caused greater struggles throughout the years of his life. On Sunday, March 30, 2014, at the age of 67, Sgt. Michael J. Hoff passed away with his family beside him at the Edward J. Hines V.A. Hospital.  May he rest in eternal peace.

 VISITATION:    Thursday, April 3, 2014 from 3:00 PM to 9:00 PM.  Petkus Funeral Home, 12401 S Archer Ave, Lemont, IL.

FUNERAL:        Friday, April 4, 2014 at 10:00 AM.  Funeral mass at St. Patrick Church, 200 E Illinois St, Lemont

INTERNMENT:  Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery, Elwood, IL.  (full military honors)

 In lieu of flowers, honor Mike by doing a good deed for a veteran and making a donation to The WoundedWarriorProject.Org.


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New pumper squad for Northfield

This from Bill Smaha

2013 E-One E-Max w/Typhoon chassis.


Should be in service this week.

Bill Smaha

Northfield FD fire engine

Northfield’s new Squad 29. Bill Smaha photo

fire engine graphics

Bill Smaha photo

fire engine

Bill Smaha photo

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Wheeling brush fire 3-31-14

This from Larry Shapiro:

It’s that season again … RED Center received several calls late Monday morning about brush fires in Wheeling near the Union Pacific railroad tracks from 444 Carpenter all the way north to Lake Cook Road. At the same time, they fielded calls for additional fires along Bond Street in the Long Grove Fire Protection District near Lincolnshire and Buffalo Grove. Buffalo Grove companies were also handling fires near the tracks as far north as Route 22.

The railroad stopped all trains from passing through and had another train that had recently gone through the area stop for inspection.

All fires were out within a period of about 90 minutes. Here are some images from the largest of the fires. This was behind 250 Carpenter Street, south of Dundee Road.

smoke from grass fire along railroad tracks

Larry Shapiro photo

large burned area after grass fire

Larry Shapiro photo

fireman at grass fire

Larry Shapiro photo

large burned area after grass fire

Larry Shapiro photo

fireman at grass fire

Larry Shapiro photo

wind fueled grass fire

Larry Shapiro photo

fireman at grass fire

Larry Shapiro photo

large burned area after grass fire

Larry Shapiro photo

large burned area after grass fire

Larry Shapiro photo

more images are in a gallery at

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