The Public Safety and Affairs (PA & S) Committee continued their review of the City of Elmhurst’s public safety performance at their meeting on Monday, March 13, 2017. The committee reviewed three options to improve ambulance and fire service response times.
As a follow-up to previous meetings, detailed information of the ambulance and fire calls was presented by the City of Elmhurst’s Fire Department. Overall, the City’s ambulance and fire response times exceed expectations. The area being reviewed is the 3% of calls that depend on mutual aid, or assistance from other towns.
With Emergency Medical Services (EMS) calls increasing by 15% over the past 5 years and fire calls slightly declining, the City is interested in understanding this trend and meeting the additional calls with enhanced service. The increase in EMS calls has created a different set of service level demands. The City’s calls for EMS are about 70% of all calls, which has been a statistic consistent in neighboring towns according to DU-COMM 911 center. The City is anticipating another 15-20% increase in EMS over the next 5 years based on increase in city population, aging population, and the general trend of aging in place.
Additionally, the Fire Department showed data illustrating the time of day and the number of calls. Most calls occur during daytime hours and level off into the evening. This bell curve for calls in regard to the calls by hour is very typical of all towns in the area. This type of analysis identifies where additional services are needed because it is likely that the calls for mutual aid occur in the peak service hours.
The Fire Department presented three options for service improvement: Hiring a third ambulance, developing an Advanced Life Safety (ALS) fire company, and hiring an ALS Rapid Response Vehicle. All of these options would run parallel to the existing services from the fire department.
The City of Elmhurst has contracted its ambulance service through Metro/Superior Ambulance for 40 years. For purposes of this exercise, Metro/Superior provided a quote to the City for a third ambulance over a 24-hour period. This option would cost the City approximately $425,000 annually. A portion of the ambulance fees are billed to the patient so the City has the opportunity to recover some of the costs from this option.
An ALS fire company means a fire engine would have ALS equipment and a trained paramedic assigned to the vehicle. Chief Freeman stressed the importance of consistency in service by having a full commitment from the entire fire department. The city employees that are both firefighters and paramedics would need to be recertified as medics through Good Samaritan hospital. It is anticipated there would not be additional compensation for this certification. This option has the lowest start-up costs; however, overtime, benefits and pensions are additional costs not calculated into the option.
A Rapid Response ALS vehicle is an SUV equipped with ALS apparatus and staffed with a paramedic. The City would hire this option through Superior to be a “gap” medic if needed. Similar to the ALS Fire Company, this option is unable to transport a patient to a hospital, but it can quickly arrive at the scene and start treatment. A Rapid Response unit would not be billable because it is not transporting a patient. This option is relatively new to this area with Naperville being the closest town to employ this type of service. This vehicle, if implemented, could stay in Elmhurst exclusively and be exempt from mutual aid calls. This would significantly reduce the response time for ALS care from mutual aid dispatch. The cost of this option is $165,352 annually for one vehicle and one medic staffed for 24 hours, 365 days a year.
Chief Freeman recommends that the City move from good to great with implementation of one of the three options. The Committee would like staff to provide a recommendation of one of the options at the next meeting; the recommendation will then be presented to the entire City Council.
The next PA&S Committee Meeting is scheduled for Thursday, March 23, 2017 at 6 p.m. at City Hall. The Committee expects to conclude its review of the City of Elmhurst’s public safety performance.