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Board Meetings

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Does anyone else ever notice that Board Meetings are always the same.  We listen to them praise each other, berate those that having differing opinions and finally speak about things which they really don’t understand …

Case in point: Trustee Rehberg spoke about a QuadCom initiative to that will reduce the “response” time by up to 45 seconds.  Well, here’s what he said:

In the true spirit of partial truth (or probably just talking about something that he doesn’t truly understand), Mr. Rehberg exclaims that it will shave up to 45 seconds off the response time, and that the technology doesn’t have a pension cost (nice dig Mr. Rehberg – a true spirit of cooperation there.) Well, that’s not exactly accurate.  Oh, don’t get me wrong – he is right about the computer not having a pension, all it gets is yearly maintenance costs, upgrade costs, software maintenance costs, replacement costs, an employee with a pension to operate it, well .. you get the idea.  You’d be surprised about how close the costs of 1 server can mirror how much 1 employee’s pension costs are.  But, I digress.  The Fire Department reports it’s response times, but it doesn’t report the amount of time it takes for the dispatch center to take the call, find out what the problem is and where it is, and dispatch the call to the fire department.  That’s another number entirely – it’s called Call Handling time.  So that everyone understands what times are – and why they matter, i’ve made a little chart for everyone.

response

So there’s a lot of different times – please bear with me.  Call Handling is the time it takes the dispatcher to answer, get info and dispatch it to the fire department.  Currently, they run anywhere from 45 seconds to 2 minutes.  Reaction time is how long it takes us to drop what we are doing and get to the rigs and roll out the door.  This runs anywhere from 30 seconds to 90 seconds, with a goal of less than 60 seconds every time.  Responding time is how long it takes us to drive to your house.  These three are the main times in question.

Here’s how these numbers play out based on some factors:

  • Call Handling is based on training of the dispatcher and technology available to increase efficiency.  THIS is the technology improvement that Mr. Rehberg was talking about.  However, it is still highly dependant on human factors including dispatcher MANNING and training.
  • Reaction Time is based on a number of factors – are we in the middle of training and have to undress in order to go on the ambulance call, are we doing an inspection and in the middle of revcor, otto or woodmans, are we sleeping, are we already on another call … not too many of these factors can be controlled.  This can be decreased by a warning that a call is coming in – we used to have something called Scan-Am where we could hear a call when it was during the call handling phase, allowing us to reduce the reaction time to almost none when we are in the station.  We don’t have that anymore.  The “New” technology improvement is meant to get a call dispatched significantly faster and give some warning, thus reducing some reaction time.
  • Responding time – it’s based on where we are when it comes in.  If we are in quarters or in our response area – this will be the fastest and best time, however, if we are out of our area from another call, this time goes up, if we are undermanned, the time goes up.  So, the best possible scenario is properly manned AND in our response area.  This can be controlled and decreased through proper MANNING.  Because responding time accounts for the largest amount of time from when you call to when we arrive, proper manning affects your survival more than both call handling AND reaction times combined.  This is why Response Time is a typical focus of fire departments in determining it’s manning.
  • Another point – Ambulance Calls take our crews out of the area for longer periods of time.  When a person needs advanced support, the Hospital requires crews to complete a report before returning to service.  This time can be as short as 15 minutes at the hospital, to over an hour for extensive calls like a heart attack/full arrest.  Last year, the FD purchased and implemented electronic reporting software and tablets on the ambulances, which has DRAMATICALLY reduced hospital time, meaning our vehicles are back in the town ready to respond sooner.  This is an example of a technology improvement.  When ambulances are at the hospital, having a fully staffed ALS-Engine (has a paramedic and all necessary life-support equipment) is critical for response times and the safety of our residents.  Currently, Old Town and Route 31 areas do NOT have an ALS Engine available when the ambulance is on a call, meaning those areas are without Fire Suppression AND EMS until a farther away unit arrives.

What we are interested in here is Dispatch Time and Response Time.  When Mr. Rehberg said it would shave up to 45 seconds off the response time – that’s not entirely accurate.  It will actually shave more time off the dispatch time, which has never been reported to the Trustees.  It MAY shave a few seconds off the reaction time.  Unfortunately, we’ve never tracked and made public the call handling times in addition to the response time, so it won’t make a demonstrable difference to the response times that everyone talks about.  However, it WILL make a difference to the person who calls 9-1-1.  We’ve never really clarified this: when we say that MOST calls are over 4 minute response time, that does NOT include the call handling time.  To the person calling 9-1-1, it will be an additional 1-2 minutes from the time they called.  The new system is designed to reduce the Call Handling by up to 45 seconds.  It’s still precious time to someone in need, and it’s still a very good thing.

However, to truly reduce our response times, additional manning is required to ensure that our vehicles are staffed AND in their own response area ready to handle the call.  Currently, because of the staffing levels, there is no gaurantee that an Ambulance or ALS-Engine is staffed in your area, and often times our vehicles are out of position because one area is handling the calls in another area.  THIS is why manning matters – and it’s why our Response times are so crappy.  Technology cannot improve this.  This is why Former Chief Schuldt, Current Deputy Chief Skillman and The Village Board have all said – ON PAPER IN VILLAGE DOCUMENTS that we have a need to increase the staffing level to 5 in each station (15 firefighers on duty).  The current staffing level and it’s rating by the Trustees as “Adequate” is simply something they are saying – it is NOT supported by any document produced by the Village.  Nor are these claims supported by any established scientific data conducted through NFPA, NIST or UL, and we no longer meet the criteria that ISO used to rate our department as a Fire Protection Class of 3.  The FPC is one of the biggest factors in determining your homeowners insurance.  That rating gets worse – so does your homeowners insurance.  Who would have thought that insurance companies would set rates based on how well a fire department can put out your fire.  And a big part of that rating – you guessed it – STAFFING.

In other words – public safety issues are very complex, and take years of training in order to understand their nuances.  Trustees aren’t trained for it, Village Managers aren’t trained for it, Police Chiefs aren’t trained for it.  This is why, given our Village’s current climate and utter lack of Management that understands these critical nuances (or who is allowed to have a voice), it’s critical that someone who does understand is on the board and able to advocate for the safety of the residents and businesses the Board serves.

As a side note, Mr. Humpfer was once again rather upset with me for not being there at the March 14th Audit and Finance meeting.  While I never miss a board meeting on live streaming, the couple of times that I did attend audit and finance I was met with a rather cold reception, and of course – Mr. Humpfer was absent.  However, since when did Audit and Finance become a board meeting where all the trustees hashed everything out?  It’s not live streamed, it’s not video recorded.  Why aren’t these meetings broadcast, or more discussion happening at the Village Board Meeting where the discussions belong?  But, it’s a good thing I didn’t attend the meeting on the 14th.  Instead of one Resident/Candidate being assaulted by Manager Rooney, it could have been 2 of us.

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