Village Board members directed staff to begin the process of reallocating resources from Fire Station 13, 831 E. Lake Ave., to the other four stations.
By Kaitlin Edquist
February 23, 2021
Glenview officials recently released a plan to reallocate resources from Fire Station 13 to the other four stations in town, despite pushback from the firefighters’ union. Through that reallocation of services from the station, 831 E Lake Ave., the plan will also increase the number of ambulances in service 24 hours a day from two to four. This change comes from reports finding that about 65% of annual calls received by the Glenview Fire Department fall under emergency medical services versus those reporting incidents like fires.
Some details about the plan are still under discussion, according to fire Chief Tony DeRose. He said the reorganization will not result in layoffs or a reduction in force, and the number of individuals working shifts will stay the same. “Our review and evaluation of operations will be ongoing,” DeRose said in a statement. “In the meantime, we are confident that this plan responds to the Village Board’s guidance and maintains our shared commitment to safety and efficiency.”
The fire department currently uses five fire stations around the village and provides fire and emergency medical services for a service area that’s about 22 square-miles large. A review process of the fire department began in 2019 and involved Village Board members, fire personnel and village staff considering alignment options of services to best serve the community’s demand and improve efficiency, officials said.
In September 2020, a consulting team from Missouri-based Fitch & Associates presented a report about their findings regarding various department operations, including demand, response times and resource utilization. The study found that Station 13 resources are the least used, responding to about 4.5% of the department’s total calls. Engine 13 located at that station was utilized just 36 minutes out of a 24-hour shift in 2019 and 24 minutes in 2020 — though staff also noted a 13% overall decline in call volume in 2020, possibly due to the pandemic.
Five months after consultants presented their report, trustees directed staff to begin the reallocation process after talking through several options at the Village Board’s Feb. 2 meeting. Board members said this plan will allow for increased efficiency while maintaining safety. “It seems to make the most sense to me to reallocate resources and have them better used where they’re most effective,” Trustee Chuck Gitles said.
According to village officials, Station 13 resources were temporarily reallocated to other stations for 15 weeks in 2020 and another four weeks in 2021 due to the pandemic, and “public safety was not adversely affected,” so they found it to be a low-risk change. The reallocation is expected to provide the village annual cost savings of approximately $1.25 million, according to a report from the Feb. 2 meeting. The additional decision to increase 24-hour ambulance teams from two to four was made to reflect the most common types of emergencies in town, officials said. This move will make two more ambulances available for overnight responses.
Following the village’s decision, the Glenview Firefighters Local 4186 union said in a statement that they do not support the decision and are worried that the new model would extend wait times, especially on the east side of town. “We know that the closure of Fire Station 13 will compromise emergency services to the entire village, especially the East side of Glenview,” the union wrote in a statement. “We will not support this reduction in service.”
Consultants did point out during their September report that the next closest station to Station 13, Station 6, is the village’s busiest. This means that without Station 13, Station 6 would have to cover Station 13′s area in addition to its own, so some realignment would be needed, they said.
The union said the study demonstrated two facts that were already clear — that Station 13 is the slowest and that more of the department’s work revolves around medical care than fires. But, they said, cutting a truck and resources will lead to longer wait times in the case of emergencies. “Spreading resources out throughout an area is common practice and is done to reduce response times,” the statement read. “In emergency services, response times are paramount.”
The board also requested updates on the progress of implementing the new operations and any additional improvements in emergency response systems, including the Medical Priority Dispatch System, which prompts 911 dispatchers to ask certain questions over the phone to identify the appropriate type and severity of an incident. The fire department currently sends a minimum of one ambulance, staffed with two personnel, and one fire engine, staffed with three personnel, regardless of the type and severity of each call.
The top suggestion from staff and consultants back in September was to implement this Medical Priority Dispatch System, which the village has had the technology to use for a number of years but has never fully implemented. Through the use of this system, the department could reduce its use of some resources and increase availability of personnel, according to officials. Village officials and consultants said this implementation wouldn’t affect response times but that it would just cut down on “unnecessary resources” on a majority of calls.
Glenview firefighter Vince Spalo shared an opposing view during public comment, though, saying that the system sounds good in theory but that the information given over the phone is “only as reliable as the caller on the other end of the line.”