The Public Safety and Affairs (PA & S) Committee continued their review of the City of Elmhurst’s public safety performance at their meeting on Thursday, March 23, 2017. As a follow-up to previous meetings, City staff members were prepared to make a recommendation to Committee for ways to improve response times.
The Committee reviewed detailed information of a specific area of calls: the calls where an engine arrives before an ambulance, when mutual aid is not involved. This number is 112 calls or 4.9% of total calls. While this is considered an excellent response for service, the Committee agreed that there remains some room for improvement within their highly rated services.
At the last PA & S meeting, Chief Freeman presented three options for ways to improve the level of service: developing an ALS fire company, hiring a third ambulance or hiring an ALS Rapid Response vehicle. All of these options would run parallel to the existing services from the fire department. The Committee was interested in the costs of each option and still needed more information regarding the true long-term costs of an ALS fire company. If the Elmhurst Fire Department became an ALS fire company, it would have to have medics on staff at all times and would have to equip engines with ALS supplies. Depending on the amount of a stipend, the increase in salaries would also increase the pension obligation. Additionally, the overtime of the department is likely to change which leaves too many variables to calculate. Based on preliminary numbers, the cost of equipment and staff time with pension increases the costs of this option.
The Committee asked staff for their recommendation regarding the three options. City Manager Jim Grabowski reviewed the options. The third ambulance’s expenses are much higher than the other options. The ALS fire company is a permanent option and there are too many unknown variables to recommend this option with confidence. The costs and flexibility of the ALS Rapid Response Vehicle make it the recommended option that staff proposed.
Aldermen Healy, Polomsky and Leader agreed with staff’s recommendation and expressed that the ALS Rapid Response Vehicle provides the best way for preparing for the future. This option offers the most flexibility and meets the needs of the 4.9% of calls where an engine arrives before an ambulance, and mutual aid is not involved. This vehicle would be a city vehicle only and would not be sent on mutual aid calls.
Alderman Healy thanked the Committee and staff for all of the information presented over the past four meetings and remains confident after this exercise that Elmhurst is providing excellent service. Alderman Healy stated, “Can we do better? Should we do better? The increasing number of medic calls was eye opening and we need to get ahead of this trend. That is why we are here.”
The recommendation for an ALS Rapid Response Vehicle will be presented to the full City Council at their next meeting on Monday, April 3.