Trustees Review Comprehensive Study; Give Manager, Fire Chief Implementation Authority
By Tom Robb | on February 09, 2021
Journal & Topics Reporter
February 09, 2021
After a comprehensive study by outside consultants with input from fire personnel, village trustees instructed Village Manager Matt Formica and Fire Chief Tony DeRose to implement changes to fire department operations at their Tuesday, Feb. 2 meeting. One of the more significant changes trustees gave specific direction to implement would lead the village to “reallocate resources” from Fire Station No. 13 at 831 E. Lake Ave., near Wagner Farm, ultimately leading to the permanent closure of the firehouse.
Recommendations from a report created by both consultants and a working group of fire and village personnel, expected to be implemented soon, made other recommendations including instituting medical call prioritization protocol in which public safety dispatchers ask targeted questions allowing them to dispatch a single ambulance to a minor call or more resources to a major call. Currently, an ambulance and fire engine respond to every medically-related EMS call in Glenview. Several equipment upgrades are needed to bring the department to the point where EMS medical prioritization could be fully implemented, DeRose said.
One firefighter calling into the meeting said he fears fewer firefighters might walk into a situation, such as an overly obese person or someone in a small space, that might need more personnel than might be dispatched under the medical prioritization system.
Station 13 opened in February 2004. It was closed from April to July 2020 because of state COVID-19 stay-at-home orders and was closed again in December, reopening just last week. While Station 13 was closed, calls were rerouted to Fire Station No. 6 at 1215 Waukegan Rd. “During the period in which Station 13 resources were temporarily reassigned, the average response time to calls for service within the Station 13 response area increased for EMS (emergency medical service) calls by 42 seconds and by 33 seconds for fire-related calls.” Village officials said during the closure, calls were handled without a loss in service levels. A village report said closing Station No. 13 would result in the village saving $1.25 million annually.
The study looked at all Glenview fire station call volumes along with their call volume capacity and found that, while Station No. 6 was one of the most heavily utilized fire stations, “55% of current available workload capacity is unused.” The report said, “fire suppression apparatus (across the department) are on calls an average of 2.47 hours per 24-hour shift,” but found “the underutilization of Station 13 unit (43 minutes in a 24-hour period) creates opportunities for further evaluation of additional efficiency measures.”
Reporters asked how Station 13 might be utilized once it is vacated, if the village might sell the property, or if developers had approached the village with any proposals to develop the property. “Glenview fire command and village staff received the village board directive only Tuesday on moving ahead with a realignment of existing resources from Fire Station 13, 831 East Lake Avenue, to the four other village fire stations,” Glenview Communications Manager Lynne Stiefel said in an email Friday, “Specific decisions on how that will be accomplished are still being discussed and worked out. Any discussions on the site are premature until those decisions are made.”
Fire stations 13 and 14 were built at the same time in 2003, opening at the same time in July 2004, at a combined cost of $4 million, Stiefel said. Station 14 is located in The Glen on Patriot Boulevard south of Willow Road. Village President Jim Patterson was a village trustee in 2003 and 2004. He said senior village staff felt the two stations were needed at the time. He said since then, Station No. 6 was relocated from Glenview Road east and north to the former village hall site on Waukegan Road near Lake, decreasing response times to areas east.
Village trustees looked at several cost-saving options besides reallocating resources from Station 13, including leaving an ambulance operating out of the station, which would save $200,000 over 20 years. Another option would have been to expand Station 13’s service area, which would have evened the workload between stations 13 and 6. Other options included having one crew of firefighters (called a “jump company”) respond to both fire and ambulance calls out of Station 13 or out of Station 8 between 7 p.m. and 7 a.m. or on a 24-hour basis. Using a jump company out of Station 13 would have cost $100,000 in one-time equipment costs. Using a Station 8 jump company for the 12-hour shift would have no financial impact. Using a Station 8 jump company 24-hours a day would save an estimated $350,000 per year.
Another option discussed involved mutual aid between communities. Under mutual aid agreements, fire departments can be dispatched from neighboring communities to most incidents, and fire units from other communities can be used to backfill stations so no one community’s resources are too thinly stretched to respond to multiple incidents at once. Additionally, automatic aid agreements are in place for pre-planned responses to specific types of calls and locations between communities. Currently, Glenview has automatic aid agreements with the villages of Northbrook and Northfield. Northfield even has a Glenview fire ladder truck stationed in one of its firehouses.
The study showed mutual aid calls from 2018 and how much Glenview either gave or received additional fire-related resources on calls from other departments. The outliers were Northbrook, to which Glenview gave resources on 145 calls but only received resources from Northbrook on 10 calls, and Northfield, to which Glenview gave aid on 113 calls and received 11. In contrast, Glenview gave resources to the North Maine Fire Dept. 38 times and received them 38 times. The report also noted Glenview gave Mount Prospect aid 17 times, only receiving it five times in return. It was noted Mount Prospect has a station 1.4 miles from Glenview and said both communities could benefit from an automatic aid agreement.
The report recommended implementing a GPS system, allowing dispatchers to know the precise location of each fire unit, which could allow them to dispatch the closest unit rather than from the closest fire station.