Firefighters will once more be sent if someone is unconscious
DANVILLE — In October, the Danville Fire Department stopped automatically responding to certain medical emergencies deemed non-life-threatening, leaving those solely to the private Medix Ambulance service.
But Public Safety Director Larry Thomason has made some changes this week to that new policy, which has received criticism from some residents and officials with the Illinois Association of Firefighters, which represents Danville firefighters.
Thomason said the fire department will resume automatic responses to calls for an unconscious person. He said the decision is not a "knee-jerk response" to a situation on Tuesday morning that involved a relative of retired firefighter Randy Elliott.
Thomason said he knew there would be reasons to tweak and re-evaluate the policy, which the fire division will continue to do, and this change is a result of that ongoing evaluation.
Prior to Tuesday, Elliott told aldermen during city council meetings his concerns with the fire division no longer responding to certain medical emergencies. At Tuesday night's meeting, Elliott again spoke to aldermen, telling them how he found his mother at her home unresponsive and called 911. Elliott said he specifically asked the dispatcher to send the fire department, which is just down the street from his mother's residence. Elliott said the dispatcher told him the fire department would not be dispatched to that call.
Elliott said two Danville police squad cars arrived before the ambulance did. Elliott said he's glad the policy is being changed but added that other types of calls, such as strokes, should be added back to the list, prompting automatic response from the fire department.
Thomason said the new policy has already cut the overall number of fire calls, including both fires and medical emergencies, by half. Thomason has said that the decision was made to narrow the list requiring automatic responses for three reasons: safety of fire personnel, safety of the public and preservation of fire equipment. Each time one of the fire trucks goes on a call, he said, there's risk of an accident that puts fire personnel and the public at risk of injury and equipment and other property at risk of damage.
Earlier this year, Thomason, in conjunction with command officers in the fire division, narrowed the list of automatic response calls to 13 from more than 20.
Until Tuesday, the list of the 13 did not include a call for an unconscious person. Others calls that no longer require an automatic response from the fire division include allergic reactions/stings/bites, chest pains, convulsions/seizures, diabetic problems, heat/cold exposure, overdose/poisoning, pregnancy/childbirth and strokes.