Posts Tagged Better Government Association

Tri-State FPD back in the news

Excerpts from

The Tri-State Fire Protection District came to our attention after our work at COD was off and running.  Numerous requests for assistance hit our in box, and after reviewing a series of articles by the Better Government Association we knew there would be more! (BGA Article).

Those articles showed the public the improper use of taxpayer money, the conflict of the trustee giving her civil union partner promotions and benefits, and brought into question how equipment was purchased. We were able to take some time to FOIA documentation from the district based on input from local citizens on the relationship of a board member to the purchase of several ambulances both new and used.  What we found appears to be a clear violation of the state ethics policy and the fire protection district act by Mr. Michael Orrico, the board treasurer.

In September of last year, Tri-State put out an RFP, not a request for bids, for two new ambulances. A number of qualified companies sent in offers to provide the ambulances like Foster Coach ($181,150 per ambulance) and Alexis Fire ($161,935 per ambulance) and Fire Services, Inc. (about $164,000 per ambulance), however it appears all of these were sent in by email and were not sealed.

After the RFP for two ambulances were put out, the agent for Fire Services, Inc. offered a used ambulance to the district for about $170,000. That ambulance was later bought for $167,965. This ambulance was not bid out and was not part of the published RFP process, but somehow this USED ambulance cost more than a new ambulance.

After initial quotes being placed by all three companies, only one company was considered, Fire Services, Inc. Final offers from Fire Services, Inc. were made on the ambulances without a Stryker power loader for a 2013 chassis Wheeled Coach ambulance for $166,087 and for a 2015 chassis Wheeled Coach ambulance for $169,702.

On a side note, the agent for Fire Services, Inc talked directly to Mike Orrico about a hood issue with the paint in January of 2015 on the used ambulance.

Final invoices for the two ambulances were issued early this year. On February 20, 2015 Fire Services, Inc. invoiced $162,587 for a 2015 chassis ambulance, and on May 26, 2015 Fire Services, Inc. invoiced $166,202 for a 2015 chassis ambulance. The district also purchased a no-bid USED ambulance from Fire Services, Inc. for a total of three ambulances on a two ambulance RFP.

Now where this gets even more interesting is with the discovery that that one of the trustees works for the company that eventually sold the ambulances to the district.

Mr. Michael Orrico sells fire equipment for Fire Service, Inc.  What did he say about his employment in his Economic Disclosure Statement for his trustee position (page 55 of the pdf below)? Not a word:

“Except for professional service entities, the name of any entity and any position held therein from which income in excess of $1,200 was derived during the preceding calendar year if the entity does business with a unit of local government in relation to which the person is required to file.”

Mr. Orrico said N/A.

What is the consequence for nondisclosure?

(5 ILCS 420/4A-107) Any person required to file a statement of economic interests under this Article who willfully files a false or incomplete statement shall be guilty of a Class A misdemeanor.

Did he mention his relationship with the company as required by law under the Illinois Fire Protection District Act? Nope. My review of all the online minutes show he didn’t say anything at the time the RFP’s were put out or when they were reviewed. He blatantly violated 70 ILCS 705/4 by not paying attention to the below:

“No trustee or employee of such district shall be directly or indirectly interested financially in any contract work or business or the sale of any article, the expense, price or consideration of which is paid by the district; nor in the purchase of any real estate or other property, belonging to the district, or which shall be sold for taxes or assessments or by virtue of legal process at the suit of the district.”

There are exemptions to this rule which are all inclusive but none apply to Mr. Orrico:

A. The award of the contract is approved by a majority vote of the board of trustees of the fire protection district provided that any such interested member shall abstain from voting; (NO VOTE TAKEN according to available minutes)

B. the amount of the contract does not exceed $1000; (WELL OVER $1000)

C. the award of the contract would not cause the aggregate amount of all such contracts so awarded to the same person, firm, association, partnership, corporation, or cooperative association in the same fiscal year to exceed $2000; (WELL OVER $2000)

D. such interested member publicly discloses the nature and extent of his interest prior to or during deliberations concerning the proposed award of the contract; (NO DISCLOSURE ON PUBLIC RECORD)

E. such interested member abstains from voting on the award of the contract, though he shall be considered present for the purposes of establishing a quorum. (DID NOT ABSTAIN SINCE BOARD DIDN’T VOTE ON THIS CONTRACT according to available minutes)

Did he abstain from voting for the purchase of these two ambulances? That one is a little more sticky since this board doesn’t appear to vote for large ticket items in open session. Not one discussion was had in the months before or after the bids were taken on approving a major equipment purchase. Perhaps that was to cover for Mr. Orrico’s conflict, I don’t know. (Link to all those minutes)

What are the consequences of Mr. Orrico’s acts:

“Any officer or employee who violates this Section is guilty of a Class 4 felony and in addition thereto any office held by such person so convicted shall become vacant and shall be so declared as part of the judgment of the court.”

How did the lawyers for the district allow this to happen on their watch?

Probably because the district uses the same law firm as the College of DuPage was using under Breuders watch!  (Attorney for Tri-State FPD)

Stay tuned for some pretty amazing exposure yet to come!

You can see the paper trail on this article below or download.

Download (PDF, 1.73MB)

thanks Dan and Scott

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Investigation of threat at the Westchester Fire Department

Excerpts from the

A rope hung in a firefighter union official’s locker may reflect internal dissent in a west suburban fire department as work rule changes are pushed through.

A noose is widely known as a symbol of hatred, especially against African Americans for whom lynching was a disturbing reality for many years. Now a noose has taken center stage in a union dispute between white firefighters in west suburban Westchester, where work rule reforms are causing deep divisions between employees.

The troubles date back to September, when a white firefighter discovered a rope fashioned like a noose hanging inside his locker at the Westchester Fire Department, according to police reports and other documents recently obtained by the Better Government Association through the Illinois Freedom of Information Act.

Village officials do not believe the rope was intentionally formed and hung as a noose.

But the firefighter, Matthew Martin, felt he was being threatened and said there had been “tension amongst members of the fireman’s union,” according to a police report.

Martin, who at the time was president of the union that represents Westchester firefighters, had been at the center of controversy within the department because he helped pass policy changes that did not sit well with some members of the rank-and-file. As part of a deal in which the village agreed not to contract out fire department services to a private company, the firefighters’ union voted and approved a couple of contract revisions, including lowering the allowable blood-alcohol content for on-duty firefighters from 0.05 to 0.021. The legal limit for driving after consuming alcohol is 0.08.

The BGA uncovered, in a series of reports from 2013, that many police and fire departments allow [employees] to work with significant amounts of alcohol in their systems. Westchester, a small suburb on the west end of Cook County, was featured in one of the reports because the village board approved a union agreement that permitted police officers to work with a blood-alcohol level of up to 0.05, despite opposition from Mayor Sam Pulia.

Since then, Village Manager Janet Matthys said the administration has been negotiating to lower the allowable blood-alcohol levels in all of the village’s union contracts but so far has only been successful with the firefighters.

A major point of contention among firefighters, however, came with a change in rules about working second jobs at other fire departments. Beginning in 2015, firefighters are no longer allowed to perform firefighting and emergency medical services for another employer.

“We had a handful of guys that had to give up their secondary employment,” Matthys said. “They got very upset with the union board, especially with the president, that their views were not being represented.” Two factions formed within the union and a lot of infighting ensued, Matthys said. (There are 28 firefighters in the department; 24 are union members.)

It was around this time when the noose-like rope appeared in Martin’s locker.

After police began investigating the incident, someone from the fire department came forward and said he had found the rope on the ground, picked it up and hung it on the nearest hook to prevent a tripping hazard, according to documents and interviews.

“The fire chief explained to me that they do rope maneuvers all the time. So I said, ‘OK, I think we’re done here,’” said Westchester Police Chief John M. Carpino. “It’s a shame that it had to get to that point where someone thought their life was in danger” he added. “I think it was a lot about nothing.”

Martin said, “As president of the firefighters’ union, I was just trying to support our firefighters with this [contractual] language and support the community, the residents of Westchester, and subsequently I was personally attacked and ridiculed for it.” He referred all other questions from a reporter to the village.

In an email to Fire Chief James Adams, Martin said that there had been a series of “personal attacks against certain union exec board members” and that he was “not satisfied” with the village’s conclusion about the rope. He has since resigned from his position as union president but remains a firefighter.

In light of all the discord, the village board hired a consulting firm in recent months for roughly $28,000 to audit the fire department and study everything from finances to personnel management to response times. A draft is expected by the end of May.

The average salary for Westchester firefighters in 2014 was about $80,000 a year, records show. Most of the firefighters are cross-trained as paramedics.

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Area fire departments and districts seeking new revenue streams (more)

The Better Government Association has an editorial about the practice by several area fire departments to charge non-residents for services at motor vehicle accidents.

One of our jobs at the Better Government Association is to look for warning signs that suggest trouble may be on the way. And with that in mind, I point to a recent BGA investigation that sounds the alarm at a number of Chicago-area fire departments, but not because there’s an actual blaze.

This alert is sparked by a growing and potentially troubling trend in emergency service that requires victims of car accidents to help fill municipal budget holes. It’s known as a “crash tax,” and it’s quietly showing up in more and more communities as fire departments struggle to make ends meet.

The BGA found at least fifteen Cook County suburbs that are now billing non-residents after providing emergency responses to their accidents. That means if you get into a car crash, you might be charged for the fire crew that comes to help, even if the accident is minor or not your fault.

Some departments charge an hourly rate — anywhere from $250 to $400 for each engine that responds, and $35 to $75 per firefighter — while others charge flat fees ranging from $435 to $2,200, depending on the situation. It could be a major accident with people seriously injured or trapped inside a car, or routine work like directing traffic, cleaning up debris or simply waiting for a tow truck to arrive.

These services have typically been free to the recipients and covered by local property taxes in the responding municipality. But towns and villages are scouring the landscape for resources these days, and that means sending out bills for first responders. The concept is to recoup some of the costs of running a fire department by collecting money from the auto insurance companies that provide coverage to accident victims.

But what if the driver doesn’t have insurance, or the claim is denied? In some cases, unpaid bills end up with a collection agency, which is what happened to Daryl Jenkins Jr. of west suburban Berkeley. He was hit with a bill last year after a small fire broke out under the hood of his SUV, and his brother, who was driving the vehicle at the time, called 911 for help. The Broadview Fire Department arrived and doused the flame within 11 minutes, according to the incident report.

But Jenkins was charged for one engine on the scene, at a rate of $250 per hour, and four responders, at $35 each, for a total of $390. He was shocked to see the tab, and he probably has a lot of company — drivers who get caught up in similar situations.

The Broadview Fire Department contends that non-residents don’t pay the village’s property taxes, so drivers from out of town can’t expect free emergency service.

Other agencies make the same argument, even though the fees bring in just a fraction of what it costs to run a department.

It’s true that fire stations are expensive operations, and we’re not trying to tell first responders how to do their jobs.

But this practice raises several concerns:

    • It borders on predatory to target those who’ve suffered the pain or trauma of an accident, and those who can’t afford to pay the fees, by unleashing collection agencies on them.
    • It can easily be abused if fire departments send out more trucks, equipment and manpower than necessary to pad the bills.
    • It’s arbitrary — that is, dependent on the decisions of insurance companies to reimburse or deny the claims.

We certainly understand the need for new and creative revenue streams to keep property taxes from skyrocketing out of control.

But if more fire departments are going to be charging for emergency services, let’s build in safeguards that protect the victims of car accidents from being jolted a second time by an unexpected bill.

thanks Dan

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Area fire departments and districts seeking new revenue streams has an article outlining a policy by several area fire departments to charge for various services:

Car wrecks can be costly. And now they’re getting more expensive for some people who need firefighters to help them.

At least 15 Chicago-area fire departments now charge the public fees for responding to accidents and vehicle fires, and roughly half of them started the billing practice within the last year as more municipalities search for new revenue sources, according to information obtained by the Better Government Association and NBC 5 Investigates.

The charges are typically sent to non-residents only and may be a flat fee or rate based on the number of responding fire trucks and personnel, as well as the length of time on the scene.

Departments that charge these types of fees include: Alsip, Berkeley, Blue Island, Broadview, Calumet Park, Chicago Heights, Flossmoor, Forest View, Hillside, Maywood, Midlothian, North Palos Fire Protection District, Roberts Park Fire Protection District, Stone Park and Westchester.

Illinois state law has allowed municipal fire departments to charge non-residents for their services since 1996.

The Broadview Fire Department said it started its billing practice in 1998. Broadview Fire Chief Thomas Gaertner said his department uses the money to pay for firefighting equipment. [he] said revenue from non-residents was low in 2013. The village billed out $5,155 of which $1,920 was collected.

However, the BGA said the billing technique used by a growing number of area fire departments may raise potential questions. “They bill per firefighter and they bill per engine so it raises questions as to whether or not they are billing for the services that are actually needed on the scene,” said BGA investigator Katie Drews.

But when seconds count, fire departments go all out in the name of safety. Gaertner said he expects more municipalities to follow.

Insurance typically covers the fees but an industry group said accident response fees add unnecessary costs that could ultimately affect the premiums that you pay. According to Property Casualty Insurers Association of America, several states, including Indiana, have passed laws or resolutions prohibiting municipalities from charging these fees.

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The cost of calling an ambulance in the Chicago area

The BGA has an article which outlines the charges levied by many fire departments or the governing municipalities.

Free ambulance rides, once a common practice among Chicago-area municipalities, have become increasingly rare, according to a Better Government Association analysis of about 130 fire departments in Cook County, and that ambulance fees, standards and practices vary widely among communities.

Fees for emergency transports range from $0 to $2,587 depending on the level of care provided, the residency of the patient and other factors.

Ambulance fees are here to stay because cash-strapped villages, towns and cities have come to depend on these “user fees” to cover emergency service costs, and create new revenue opportunities designed to help contain or ease local tax increases.

In Cook County, a “basic life support,” or BLS, ride could cost residents anywhere from $0 to $1,200, with an average rate of $587. Along with emergency transportation to a hospital, BLS may include basic care such as CPR, splinting fractures or controlling bleeding. For non-residents, who are often charged a higher price, BLS fees range from $365.42 to $1,400, with an average rate of $732.

“Advanced life support,” or ALS, fees range from $0 to $1,900 for residents and $433 to $2,587 for non-residents. ALS is typically divided into two categories based on the level of support, which includes more advanced care such as cardiac monitoring and giving medication.

The City of Chicago charges residents $900 for BLS, $1,050 for the lesser ALS care, and $1,200 for the more sophisticated ALS care, plus $17 per mile and $25 for oxygen. Non-residents pay an additional $100 fee.

Billing policies vary just as much as the rates. Some agencies accept insurance as payment in full, while others bill the patient for any remaining balance, and, in some cases, employ a collections agency to recoup the debt.

 Highest Ambulance Rates in Cook County


In 2002, Medicare instituted a standardized rate schedule that increases annually based on inflation. Regardless of what a provider charges, Medicare pays according to its reimbursement rates, which range from $367.32 to $436.20 per ambulance transport. Since Medicare is the largest payer for ambulance services, the fees that are set by each local governing body become less meaningful.

Forest View, McCook and Rosemont are the only remaining places in Cook County that do not charge residents for ambulance service (though non-residents will get a bill.)

BLS ALS-1 ALS-2 BLS ALS-1 ALS-2 Res. Non-Res.
Alsip FD 700 800 N/A 800 850 N/A 15/mi 15/mi YES
Arlington Heights FD 400 400 450 600 600 650 0 0
Barrington FD 420 525 N/A 525 630 N/A 45 55 YES
Barrington Countryside FPD 600 800 1000 800 900 1100 12/mi 12/mi
Bartlett FPD 550 800 1000 800 1100 1200 10/mi 10/mi YES
Bedford Park FD 550 800 1200 750 1100 1400 15/mi 15/mi YES
Bellwood FD 350 400 N/A 400 450 N/A 8/mi 8/mi YES
Bensenville FPD 850 1100 1375 1275 1650 2100 16/mi 16/mi
Berkeley FD 825 1300 1725 1125 1950 2550 15/mi 15/mi YES
Berwyn FD 450 550 N/A 550 600 N/A 10/mi 10/mi YES
Blue Island FD 500 N/A N/A 600 N/A N/A 10/mi 10/mi YES
Bridgeview FD 600 700 N/A 650 750 N/A 12/mi 12/mi YES
Broadview FD 725 1050 1250 825 1200 1400 12/mi 12/mi YES
Brookfield FD 750 1000 N/A 750 1000 N/A 15/mi 15/mi YES
Buffalo Grove FD 475 550 700 650 750 925 8.50/mi 8.50/mi YES
Burbank FD 500 865 N/A 500 865 N/A 50 or 70 50 or 70 YES
Burnham FD 725 950 1100 725 950 1100 22.50/mi 22.50/mi YES
Calumet City FD 700 800 N/A 700 800 N/A 7/mi 7/mi YES
Calumet Park FD 600-650 675-725 N/A 650 725 N/A 15/mi 15/mi YES
Chicago FD 900 1050 1200 1000 1150 1300 17/mi 17/mi YES
Chicago Heights FD 600 700 800 600 700 800 15/mi 15/mi YES
Chicago Ridge FD 450 500 N/A 550 650 N/A 12/mi 12/mi YES
Cicero FD 400 750 1000 400 750 1000 25/mi 25/mi YES
Country Club Hills FD 450 550 650 550 650 750 10/mi 10/mi
Crestwood FD 550 650 N/A 600 700 N/A 10/mi 10/mi YES
Deerfield-Bannockburn FPD 500 700 N/A 500 700 N/A 10/mi 10/mi
Des Plaines FD 500 700 950 650 950 1150 15/mi 15/mi
Dixmoor FD 725 950 1100 725 950 1100 22.50/mi 22.50/mi YES
Dolton FD 725 950 1100 725 950 1100 22.50/mi 22.50/mi YES
East Dundee & Countryside FPD 550 950 1250 750 1150 1350 10/mi 10/mi YES
East Hazel Crest FD 725 950 1100 725 950 1100 22.50/mi 22.50/mi YES
Elgin FD 442.75 525.75 760 692.75 900 1135 10/mi 10/mi YES
Elk Grove Village FD 519 622 893 774 876 1155 8/mi 12.68/mi
Elmhurst FD 750 1150 1250 850 1250 1350 16/mi 16/mi YES
Elmwood Park FD 700 1000 1300 900 1200 1500 20/mi 22/mi YES
Evanston FD 362 429 621 500 550 700 7/mi 7/mi
Evergreen Park FD 650 750 N/A 700 800 N/A 15/mi 15/mi YES
Flossmoor FD 1100 1300 1500 1100 1300 1500 10/mi 10/mi
Ford Heights FD 725 950 1100 725 950 1100 22.50/mi 22.50/mi YES
Forest Park FD 400 1000 1200 400 1000 1200 25/mi 25/mi YES
Forest View FD 0 N/A N/A 650 N/A N/A 0 0 YES
Fox River Grove FPD 700 900 1000 700 900 1000 12/mi 12/mi
Franklin Park FD 850 1100 1375 1275 1650 2100 0 0
Glencoe FD 522 600 683 610 688 766 7.17/mi 7.17/mi
Glenview FD 889.15 889.15 N/A 1004.65 1004.65 N/A 11.26/mi 11.26/mi
Glenwood FD 725 950 1100 725 950 1100 22.50/mi 22.50/mi YES
Golf FD 889.15 889.15 N/A 1004.65 1004.65 N/A 11.26/mi 11.26/mi
Hanover Park FD 625 725 975 625 725 975 10.50/mi 10.50/mi YES
Harvey FD 725 950 1100 725 950 1100 22.50/mi 22.50/mi YES
Hazel Crest FD 361.31 429.05 589.07 500 700 700 0 0 YES
Hillside FD 825 1300 1725 1125 1950 2550 16/mi 16/mi YES
Hinsdale FD 550 650 800 800 1000 1200 10/mi 25/mi YES
Hoffman Estates FD 370.6 440.09 636.98 653.26 757.78 1019.08 8.32/mi 10.92/mi
Hoffman Estates FPD 370.6 440.09 636.98 653.26 757.78 1019.08 8.32/mi 10.92/mi
Hometown FPD 1200 1200 N/A 1400 1400 N/A 15/mi 15/mi YES
Homewood FD 450 550 N/A 650 750 N/A 10/mi 10/mi YES
Kenilworth FD 525 675 N/A 650 850 N/A 12/mi 12/mi
La Grange FD 440 710 N/A 440 710 N/A 8/mi 8/mi
La Grange Park FD 500 800 800 800 1200 1200 15/mi 15/mi YES
Lake Zurich/Lake Zurich Rural FPD 600 600 N/A 700 700 N/A 1/mi 1/mi
Lansing FD 365.42 450 628.06 365.42 450 628.06 7.09/mi 7.09/mi YES
Lemont FPD 450 750 N/A 650 1000 N/A 10/mi 10/mi YES
Lincolnwood FD 500 700 950 850 1000 1250 15/mi 17/mi
Lynwood FD 725 950 1100 725 950 1100 22.50/mi 22.50/mi YES
Lyons FD 600 700 800 1000 1200 1400 15/mi 15/mi
Markham FD 725 950 1100 725 950 1100 22.50/mi 22.50/mi YES
Matteson FD 450 550 650 650 750 850 10/mi 10/mi YES
Maywood FD 500 800 N/A 700 1000 N/A 15/mi 15/mi YES
McCook FD 0 0 0 1250 1250 2000 0 12/mi YES
Melrose Park FD 850-950 1100 1375 850-950 1100 1375 16/mi 16/mi YES
Merrionette Park FD 650 N/A N/A 700 N/A N/A 15/mi 15/mi YES
Midlothian FD 700 800 900 750 850 950 16/mi 16/mi
Morton Grove FD 500 700 950 650 950 1150 15/mi 15/mi YES
Mount Prospect FD 365.42 433.93 628.06 465.42 533.93 728.06 7.09/mi 7.09/mi
Niles FD 500 700 950 750 950 1150 15/mi 15/mi YES
North Palos FPD 850 1100 1375 1275 1650 2100 16/mi 16/mi YES
North Riverside FD 600 1200 N/A 600 1200 N/A 25/mi 25/mi YES
Northbrook FD 500 500 500 700 700 700 0 0
Northfield FD 500 600 675 625 700 750 10/mi 10/mi
Northlake FPD 780 1280 1600 1280 1600 1850 18.5/mi 18.5/mi YES
Northwest Homer FPD 550 650 N/A 650 750 N/A 10/mi 10/mi YES
Norwood Park FPD 600 1000 1200 600 1000 1200 25/mi 25/mi YES
Oak Brook FD 550 700 800 650 800 900 10/mi 10/mi YES
Oak Forest FD 650 750 N/A 750 900 N/A 15/mi 15/mi YES
Oak Lawn FD 600 700 800 650 950 1150 15/mi 15/mi YES
Oak Park FD 500 800 N/A 700 1000 N/A 15/mi 15/mi
Olympia Fields FD 600 700 800 600 700 800 15/mi 15/mi YES
Orland FPD 1000 1100 1200 1100 1200 1250 15/mi 15/mi
Palatine FD 441 523 758 533 632 915 7/mi 7/mi
Palatine Rural FPD 700 825 1000 945 1115 1350 10/mi 10/mi YES
Palos FPD 550 550 N/A 850 850 N/A 0 0
Palos Heights FPD 795 895 995 995 1095 1195 10/mi 15/mi
Park Forest FD 365 435 630 615 710 780 7/mi 7/mi YES
Park Ridge FD 500 700 950 650 950 1150 15/mi 15/mi
Phoenix FD 725 950 1100 725 950 1100 22.50/mi 22.50/mi YES
Pleasantview FPD 710 1050 N/A 710 1050 N/A 25/mi 25/mi
Posen FD 750 750 750 900 900 900 20/mi 20/mi
Prospect Heights FPD 400 450 650 500 550 750 10/mi 10/mi
Richton Park FD 450 550 N/A 550 700 N/A 10/mi 10/mi YES
River Forest FD 600 950 1200 750 1100 1500 20/mi 22/mi YES
River Grove FD 375-600 1000 1200 375-600 1000 1200 25/mi 25/mi YES
Riverdale FD 725 950 1100 725 950 1100 22.50/mi 22.50/mi YES
Riverside FD 500 700 850 800 1000 1000 15/mi 15/mi
Robbins FD 725 950 1100 725 950 1100 22.50/mi 22.50/mi YES
Roberts Park FPD 1150 1500 1900 1275 1650 2100 16/mi 16/mi YES
Rolling Meadows FD 375 450 600.85 375 450 600.85 7/mi 7/mi
Roselle FD 800 1000 1200 900 1200 1400 15/mi 20/mi YES
Rosemont FD 0 0 0 500 700 700 0 0
Sauk Village FD 725 950 1100 725 950 1100 22.50/mi 22.50/mi YES
Schaumburg FD 365.42 433.93 628.06 618.59 759.52 936.76 7.09/mi 7.09/mi
Schiller Park FD 650 1100 1300 700 1200 1400 16/mi 16/mi YES
Skokie FD 500 700 950 650 950 1150 15/mi 15/mi YES
South Chicago Heights FD 750 850 850 750 850 850 10/mi 10/mi YES
South Holland FD 450 550 N/A 500 600 N/A 10/mi 10/mi YES
Steger FD 500 600 N/A 550 750 N/A 10/mi 10/mi YES
Stickney FD 500 N/A N/A 550 N/A N/A 15/mi 15/mi YES
Stone Park FD 750 750 750 1250 1500 2000 10/mi 10/mi YES
Streamwood FD 367.32 436.2 631.34 625 725 975 7.16/mi 10.50/mi
Summit FD 650 900 1100 750 1000 1200 5/mi 7/mi
Thornton FD 450 550 N/A 550 650 N/A 10/mi 10/mi YES
Tinley Park FD 725 850 950 725 850 950 20/mi 20/mi
Tri-State FPD 750 1000 N/A 1000 1250 N/A 15/mi 15/mi YES
University Park FD 625 800 N/A 725 900 N/A 15/mi 15/mi
Westchester FD 850 1305 1725 1275 1957.5 2587.5 16/mi 16/mi
Western Springs FD 500 600 700 800 900 1000 15/mi 15/mi YES
Wheeling FD 365.42 433.93 628.06 365.42 433.93 628.06 0 0
Wilmette FD 450 550 700 450 550 700 7.5/mi 7.5/mi
Winnetka FD 525 675 N/A 650

thanks Dan

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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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CBS and BGA take issue with CFD EMS response times

The Chicago Sun-Times has an article about the BGA investigating ambulance response times in Chicago:

The Chicago Fire Department is a city agency the Better Government Association watches closely, and with good reason — emergency work saves lives when it’s done well, and imperils them when it’s not.

Our latest investigation of the CFD, which looked at lengthy ambulance response times, appears to be a prime example of the latter, and it cries out for immediate attention from the Emanuel administration before there’s a tragedy that could be prevented.

The BGA and CBS2 reported recently that, in January, a two-ton postal truck hit a woman right outside City Hall. It took 16 minutes for an ambulance to arrive — that’s 10 minutes longer than the state mandate of 6 minutes — even though the downtown area has several fire stations. Thankfully, the woman survived her serious injuries, including broken bones, but the next person who has to wait 16 minutes for an ambulance might not be so “lucky.”

Last fall, the city’s inspector general took exception to CFD claims it was meeting response-time standards.

And our investigation revealed the department doesn’t even track ambulance response times in a meaningful way, so it’s hard to determine whether the situation is getting better or worse. Paramedics tell us there’s a shortage of fully equipped Advanced Life Support — or ALS — ambulances, and that travel times are getting longer, which means slower responses.

But fire officials can’t validate or refute this since they don’t track response times month-to-month or year-to-year. So they’re resorting to double-talk. Here, in essence, is what they’re saying: They have enough ambulances, but might be getting more; they have enough paramedics, but plan to hire more; response times aren’t bad, but they have no real way of tracking them.

That’s hardly professional or reassuring, and it’s not the only problem we’ve uncovered at the CFD. Past investigations revealed a former fire commissioner’s dubious pension “sweetener,” the breakdown of an ambulance that was transporting a gunshot victim, paramedics taking a stabbing victim to the wrong hospital, and fire department vehicles carrying expired medications.

That’s why we’re suggesting the mayor’s top staffers sit down with fire officials to straighten things out, beginning with two life-and-death questions: Are there enough ALS ambulances on the street, and do they respond to calls quickly enough? The answer to both questions appears to be “no.”

So one solution may be to convert some or all of the “basic life support” ambulances that handle relatively minor injuries to ALS vehicles that handle trauma cases. That could add 15 trauma-ready ambulances to an operating fleet of about 60. Paramedics seem to like the idea, and the department is willing to consider it, which is encouraging.

Another idea worth exploring is a redistribution of equipment and resources. As the city’s population shifts, and the number of fire fatalities continues to drop — 2013 was an all-time low — maybe it’s time for fewer fire trucks and engines, and more ambulances.

Finally, it’s 2014. The department should be able to track ambulance dispatch and response times in a way that allows them, and watchdogs like the BGA, to analyze data. Other big fire departments do this, so why not a “world-class city” like Chicago?

thanks Dan

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NBC Chicago aligns with BGA on Tri-State FPD decisions

NBC Chicago has an article and associated video segment questioning decisions made by the Tri-State FPD board of trustees with regards to the recent retirement of Fire Chief Michelle Gibson.

The recently-resigned fire chief of the Tri-State Fire Protection District left behind a number of questions as she vacated the office.

Michelle Gibson is in a civil union and raising a family with Jill Strenzel, a woman who is essentially one of her bosses and one of only three trustees overseeing the fire district headquartered in southwest suburban Darien and covering parts of four towns and unincorporated DuPage County.

Two weeks ago, Strenzel and her two fellow trustees unanimously approved a retirement agreement that will pay the now former chief about $136,000 at the end of the year, mostly for unused sick days and vacation.

Attorney Shawn Collins, who specializes in negotiating employment contracts and disputes, reviewed the agreement and labeled it “ridiculous.” He said he’s never heard of anyone getting “paid in 2014 for an unused sick day from 1989.” Collins concluded that the Tri-State Fire District has the appearance of a “fiefdom or a private family business somewhere where a bunch of people who know each other are deciding how to carve up family money.”

Gibson resigned following a year-long investigation by the Better Government Association and NBC 5 Investigates which uncovered a spike in spending on equipment, entertainment and legal expenses in the six years since she was elevated to chief. The trustees, including Gibson’s life partner, reviewed and approved each year’s budget.

When BGA investigator Katie Drews pushed the three trustees for answers on Gibson’s retirement agreement, the new fire chief, Jack Mancione, answered instead with emails that said in part that “the trustee feel it is fair and reasonable to the taxpayers.”

House Republican leader Jim Durkin, who represents the area, said the scenario “screams for public accountability.”

thanks to multiple sources

 previous posts are HERE, HERE, and HERE.

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Does Chicago have a shortage of ambulances?

Pam Zekman from CBSChicago did a piece the other night on the state of the Chicago FD ambulance fleet and EMS responses:

If you have a life-threatening condition will the city get an ambulance to you in time?

CBS 2?s Pam Zekman and the Better Government Association investigated and found they may not. That’s why paramedics say the city needs more paramedics and ambulances.

Take the case of Lynn Ramos. She was crossing Washington Street in the Loop last month when she was struck by a 2-ton postal truck. Fire engines with a paramedic on board arrived in about four minutes to extricate her from under a wheel of the truck. In recorded calls, one of them can be heard asking a city dispatcher why an ambulance hasn’t shown up yet. Ambulances housed closer to the downtown were not available. The vehicle that was available was five miles away and took 16 minutes to get there — 10 minutes longer than state guidelines suggest. The injured Ramos was suffering from a punctured lung; one fractured leg and the other broken in two places; a fractured pelvis and ribs.

The delay never should have happened, says Paramedic Field Chief Patrick Fitzmaurice. “We don’t have enough ambulances,” he says.

The city says it meets state standards by getting a fire engine with a paramedic and advanced life support equipment to the scene within six minutes to stabilize a patient until an ambulance arrives.

“It may take 10 to 15 minutes for an ambulance to show up after that,” said another paramedic, who asked CBS 2 to conceal his identity. ”And, depending on what’s wrong with the person, those minutes are critical.”

He’s one of more than a half dozen paramedics who tells CBS 2 that’s not good enough for people suffering from life-threatening conditions.

A stroke patient, for example, needs to be taken to a stroke center where their condition can be assessed and drugs given to eliminate the deficits they may suffer, he says. A gunshot victim, accident victims with internal injuries “need a surgeon to repair what their problem is,” says the other paramedic. “Time is of the essence.”

An audit by the city’s inspector general highlights the problem. It found that the city’s medical response times did not meet the standards recommended by the National Fire Protection Association. The NFPA says advanced life support equipment should get to a medical emergency within five minutes from the time it is dispatched 90 percent of the time. The inspector general found the city only met that standard 58 percent of the time.

“Taxpayer money for critical services are at the core of what we pay our taxes to do,” Inspector General Joseph Ferguson said. “And to the extent that our office looked at it, it appears that it is being done at a much lower level than what the fire department was claiming.”

Ferguson says the fire department first told his office they use the NFPA standards but then said they did not. And the report criticized the methods the fire department used to calculate its performance, saying, “No one has any idea truly how well it is performing a core mission.”

Andy Shaw of the Better Government Association says. “… peoples’ lives will be imperiled if they don’t get the right ambulances and the right trained personnel to the scene quickly enough.” 

And that’s a daily struggle for dispatchers, paramedics like Fitzmaurice say. “There are times they literally just get on the radio and say, ‘I have no ambulances. … Can anybody go?’”

In a written statement, Fire Commissioner Jose Santiago disagrees there is an ambulance shortage. “The Fire department takes its calls for medical assistance very seriously and does not have a shortage of ambulances,” he said. Santiago also said the department plans to hire more paramedics this year, “after a temporary delay due to our updating testing requirements.”

“We are fully staffed every day with a mix of paramedics working straight time and overtime, the majority of which is voluntary. This allows us to respond quickly to start care and transport patients,” he says. In response to questions, a spokesman said the department would hire enough paramedics to reduce the $7 million it had to pay in overtime last year.

And the department is already tracking the response times of ALS ambulances to see how they can be utilized more efficiently and whether they need to move the headquarters for some of them to meet increased demands.

This from Bill Post:

This is a problem that most of us have known about for a while already however the ALS Engines and Trucks have been arriving on the scene much sooner which is the reason for the ALS fire company program. If you look at the video and the story you will see that one of the EMS field supervisors was willing to go on camera to confirm the story. That is unusual as he is an employee of the CFD . If you’ll notice the second CFD employee in the report chose not to be identified.

thanks Dan & Bill

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BGA has more to say about the Tri-State FPD

The Better Government Association has the Tri-State Fire Protection District back in their sites with the following article:

More Smoke Coming Out Of Tri-State

Dec 30, 2013
bo_gibbons_jill_Strenzel_BGAphotoTrustees Hamilton “Bo” Gibbons and Jill Strenzel / BGA photo

Firefighters, of all people, know that where there’s smoke, there’s often fire.

And several firefighters in the western suburbs are concerned about the “smoke” coming from their very own department.

A series of Better Government Association articles on the Darien-based Tri-State Fire Protection District has already exposed wild spending habits, conflicts of interest and pension “spiking” within the agency.

Since then, a number of curious events have occurred at the district – again, raising eyebrows among the rank and file and calling into question Tri-State’s leadership.

The most recent situation centers around confidential tape recordings from closed-door meetings of Tri-State’s board of trustees – an oversight body comprised of three elected officials.

According to the Illinois Open Meetings Act, trustees are allowed to convene in private to discuss sensitive material such as litigation or personnel matters, provided certain rules are followed. Among the rules, they must keep a “verbatim record” – either video or audio – of all sessions closed to the public.

Until recently, Tri-State’s closed session tapes were stored at the private residence shared by Trustee Jill Strenzel and Fire Chief Michelle Gibson, who have been in a relationship for many years and entered in a civil union in 2012.

Michelle_GibsonFire Chief Michelle Gibson

After Trustee Michael Orrico raised concerns at a public board meeting in September about the location of the tapes and the accuracy of meeting minutes, Strenzel said the tapes were in her possession because of renovations at Tri-State and that if Orrico wanted to listen to any of them, they could arrange it.

But in reality, that hasn’t been so easy.

Seven special meetings have since been scheduled to listen to tapes, and at least four of those were ultimately canceled.

And on one especially bizarre occasion, the police intervened.

On Nov. 21, Burr Ridge police responded to a reported burglary at the Tri-State station located at 10S110 Madison St. in Burr Ridge where Strenzel told officers someone “broke into” a district safe holding tapes and other notes, according to police reports obtained by the BGA through the Illinois Freedom of Information Act.

According to the reports, Strenzel was at the firehouse and started to pull papers out of the safe “at which time she stopped and was worried that unlawful entry had been gained.”

After investigating, the police concluded that nothing was missing from the safe. Due to a lack of evidence, officers were unable to determine a crime had been committed and reclassified the burglary as “suspicious circumstances.”

Strenzel, who, according to the reports, is the only person who possesses a key and combination for the safe, asked a police officer “what should be done if they found that someone had erased the tapes ‘using a magnet’ at which time” the officer advised her to contact authorities, records show.

The police were called back to the station after midnight on Nov. 22 and were asked to “move items from a compromised safe to a new safe.” Officers declined to physically get involved but watched Strenzel move three envelops, five plastic bags containing audio tapes, 11 manila envelops and one recording device from one safe to another.

The reported break-in came only a few days after yet another strange episode related to district tapes. Just before a regular board meeting was about to begin on Nov. 18, Strenzel fell outside of the station and broke two empty tape recorders, according to meeting minutes. At the request of a district attorney, an employee was sent to buy another recording device “so that there could be a closed session meeting,” the documents show.

Whatever has been going on during executive session remains a mystery.

At the Dec. 17 regular board meeting, the trustees voted (Strenzel and Hamilton “Bo” Gibbons yes, Orrico no) to approve – and keep confidential – meeting minutes from several closed sessions from the past year.

In another interesting development at Tri-State, paramedics and emergency medical technicians who are employed by Public Safety Services Inc. but work at Tri-State have been organizing to form a union.

Already more than 50 percent of workers signed cards seeking union representation, according to an official with the International Association of EMTs and Paramedics. An election will be held at the district at the end of the month, and results should be announced by the New Year.

In the midst of the union drive, Gibson announced that Shelly Carbone, who oversaw the paramedics at Tri-State, “has been offered an opportunity within PSSI to be involved more at the corporate level” and would no longer be working at Tri-State as EMS coordinator, according to interviews and a Dec. 19 email obtained by the BGA.

PSSI did not return phone calls.

With all the recent commotion at the west suburban department, it seems as though the district is beginning to unravel.

Firefighters, meanwhile, are standing by, keeping a close watch on the rising smoke.

thanks Dan & Scott

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