Archive for October 5th, 2016

Oak Lawn Fire Department news

Excerpts from the

For years, Oak Lawn’s administration and its firefighters union have waged a bitter and expensive legal battle over minimum apparatus and shift staffing requirements.

The administration argues that the department can safely and effectively run with three on an engine and a total of 19 firefighters per shift. The union contends that four to an engine — as is stipulated in the parties’ collective bargaining agreement — and 21 individuals on duty at all times — as a grievance arbitrator decided in 2008 — represent the minimum staffing necessary to keep firefighters and the community safe.

Unable to make any headway in discussions on the topic, the parties have turned to an arbitrator to adjudicate recent labor contracts. If the arbitrator, whose ruling on the current contract is expected in November, sides with the village and permits a reduction in staffing, it would mean nearly $1 million in annual savings on overtime, officials have said. It also would mean a less safe work environment for firefighters and the public, union president Vince Griffin contends.

The National Fire Protection Association, which releases national firefighting codes and standards, recommends that fire engine companies be staffed with a minimum of four members, as Griffin would prefer. One firefighter should staff the pump, another should secure the water supply and two should advance the hoseline, according to the NFPA’s guidelines.

Maintaining four to an engine also enables adherence to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s two-in, two-out rule, which mandates that firefighters never enter a burning building alone. When two firefighters do enter a dangerous situation, there always should be two others on the outside who can back them up or rescue them, if need be.

In practice, however, fire departments vary in their observance of the NFPA’s standards. Because the standards are not law, but rather recommended best practices, departments pick and choose which they wish to follow.

I would say the majority of the fire departments in the United States follow at least some of the NFPA standards,” said Ed Conlin, a retired Massachusetts fire lieutenant who now serves as the NFPA’s division manager of public fire protection. “Which ones (they follow), it’s hard to determine, because departments can cherry pick not only the document they want to use, but also the section of the document they want to use.”

Suburban Illinois departments rarely follow the NFPA’s suggested minimum apparatus staffing, Oak Lawn fire chief George Sheets said. “All of our surrounding communities are responding with less than 4 (on an engine),” he said. “The entire state of Illinois, with the exception of maybe five departments, is running with less than 4.”

While Sheets says he’d love to be able to continue staffing four firefighters per engine, he doesn’t believe it’s necessary given the village’s smaller building stock and its membership in MABAS, the state’s mutual aid system.

Only one of a list of 14 comparable communities agreed upon by village officials and the union as part of the current arbitration process staffs four to an engine. The rest run with 2 or 3, according to a court exhibit provided by Oak Lawn’s legal counsel.

“Those communities are larger than us in some respects, so that gives you a real compelling comparison of other communities that operate with less, that are larger and more densely populated and have infrastructure we don’t have,” Sheets said. “When you look at the Southland area, there’s no department that comes close to the staffing of Oak Lawn.”

He argues the total number of firefighters that assemble at a scene, rather than the number on any given apparatus, is what really matters. NFPA standards recommend that a minimum of 12 firefighters respond to fires at single-family dwellings; 23 for open-air strip malls; 27 for garden style apartments; and 40 for high-rise buildings.

Sheets said that when you take into consideration the 21-per-shift staffing that Oak Lawn currently employs and add to that the mutual aid provided by neighboring departments, it’s typical for there to be between 30 and 40 firefighters present for any working fire in the village.

Reducing per-shift staffing from 21 to 19 — either by reducing the staffing per apparatus or removing an apparatus altogether — would not make a significant dent in the overall fire response, Sheets and other village officials argue.

Only about 30 percent of the fire department’s 8,000-plus calls each year are for fires, and the vast majority of those end up being false alarms, he said. In Sheets’ estimation, Oak Lawn battles only about 10 working fires annually. Rather than staff four to an engine all the time, he’d prefer to place a fourth ambulance in service to respond to the village’s growing number of medical emergency calls.

“We could have jump companies where, depending on the type of call, the people jump on the appropriate piece of apparatus,” Sheets said. “That’s what 99 percent of departments in the state and country do — they have jump companies and the flexibility of taking a piece of apparatus based on the call.”

Griffin, however, argues that any reduction in staffing would have a detrimental effect on safety, and said he’d be doing a disservice to Oak Lawn residents and fellow firefighters if he conceded to any reductions.

thanks Dan

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35th National Fallen Firefighters Memorial Service

The lives of 79 firefighters who died in the line of duty in 2015 and 33 firefighters who died in previous years will be honored during the 35th National Fallen Firefighters Memorial Service on Sunday, October 9.

Microsoft Word - NFFF Media Alert_General.docx

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Lake Zurich Fire Department news

Excerpts from the

Lake Zurich officials expect a few hundred residents to drop by Sunday during the fire department’s annual open house. Residents are invited to the firehouse at 321 S. Buesching Road from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. The event especially targets kids to try and spread awareness of fire safety issues and education about fires, Fire Chief John Malcolm said.

The event will feature tables and vendors providing fire safety information and activities to teach children.

The department also will provide hot dogs, popcorn, and balloons. A fire sprinkler demonstration will show what happens to a fire in a building equipped with sprinklers and what happens to one without.

Firefighters also will provide training on how to use fire extinguishers, Malcolm said.

“A number of people have never seen or used one,” he said. “We cover the key points and give people an opportunity to ask questions, what type of extinguisher they should have in their homes or businesses.”

thanks Dan

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New ambulance for Lincolnshire-Riverwoods FPD (more)

This from Larry Shapiro:

Here is Lincolnshire-Riverwoods Ambulance 52 on scene in Northbrook. It is one of three new Horton Type I units.

Lincolnshire-Riverwoods FPD Ambulance 52

Lincolnshire-Riverwoods FPD Ambulance 52. Larry Shapiro photo

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