Excerpts from the ChicagoTribune.com:

Elmhurst officials are reviewing fire department operations at a time when a growing number of calls are for emergency medical services. The review will focus on staffing and equipment levels.

City officials say the department is now fully staffed with 11 firefighters per shift. The city also contracts with Metro Paramedic Services, Inc., part of Superior Ambulance Service, for two advanced life support ambulances, with each staffed around the clock by two paramedics, part of a Metro crew of 12 who average seven years of experience.

But a number of residents have questioned whether two ambulances are enough for a town as large and spread out as Elmhurst. Many have called either for additional ambulances or for the city to staff fire trucks and engines with firefighters who are also certified paramedics.

Critics of the set-up say fire equipment and firefighters are often the first on the scene, ahead of the ambulance, and could provide advanced life support services.

Firefighter members of Elmhurst Local 3541 of the International Association of Fire Fighters have said many of the city’s firefighters are certified paramedics and would like to be able to use their skills.

But city manager James Grabowski has said he is concerned over the possibility of loss of state revenue as the state’s lack of a budget drags on. The city’s budget does not include any money for additional emergency medical services or staffing, but left open the possibility that money could be found if the council decides to move in that direction.

Fire Chief Thomas Freeman presented information showing that while the number of fire calls has remained fairly steady over the last 10 years, the number of calls for emergency medical services has grown from fewer than 3,000 to more than 4,000.

But Freeman said there have only been 133 instances where the city has called for an additional ambulance from another community, meaning that the city’s two ambulances have been able to handle nearly 97 percent of calls for medical services.

Elmhurst fire’s response time for an ambulance call is under four minutes, while calls involving mutual aid average less than seven and a half minutes. That time is about the same for both calls where an Elmhurst ambulance goes to another town and cases where another town’s ambulance responds to an Elmhurst call.

Freeman and Grabowski explained that all department responses are dispatched by the DuPage Public Safety Organization, DU-COMM, which responds to 911 calls and dispatches responders from 45 agencies in DuPage County.

Grabowski and others explained several aspects of the contract ambulance service, including that Metro does all ambulance service billing, that Elmhurst residents are not billed for any balance beyond what their insurance covers and that billing revenue over contract thresholds are returned to the city at the end of the year. That provision has returned hundreds of thousands of dollars to the city over the 40 years the city has contracted with Metro.

thanks Dan