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Des Plaines Patch: 3rd Ward Meeting Full of Lights! Sirens! Action! 

Des Plaines Patch | By Hollie Hojek | April 15, 2011 

3rd Ward attendees at Alderman Matt Bogusz's Station One Des Plaines Fire House tour. Credit: Hollie Hojek

Habitual meeting goers came out to Station One Firehouse in Des Plaines Wednesday night for a different type of 3rd Ward meeting, filled with plenty of lights, sirens and action. Holding the meeting at the firehouse is part of 3rd Ward Alderman Matt Bogusz’s “101 Events” in Des Plaines.

“It’s about bringing government closer to the residents,” said Bogusz.

The Des Plaines fire Department has a total of 94 sworn staff members. These include 18 station and shift officers, 15 engineers (who drive the firefighting vehicles), and 54 firefighters (51 of whom are also paramedics) who work at three different fire stations in the city, each one spending nearly a third of his life on-duty at one of the stations. The remaining sworn members work regular business-week shifts. There are also two full-time and one part-time civilian employees.

“It’s they’re home away from home,” said Fire Chief Alan Wax.

Thanks to help from Wax and the department, residents and participants got an exclusive tour of the firehouse and unbelievable insight into a world so few know about it.

Chief Wax gave a presentation about station services, responsibilities, equipment and more, while firefighter Dan Hauser conducted a CPR demonstration using a relatively new device called an AED, (Automated External Defibrillator).

“Don’t be afraid of it," said Hauser. "It walks you through CPR and tells you everything you need to do."

Hauser told participants the most important thing about CPR is chest compressions.

“First thing to do, if you know nothing else, start pumping on the chest," he said. "It’s the most important things you can do."

Chief Wax and firefighter Hauser did their best to get hours worth of information into a 45-minute presentation.

During his presentation, Wax touched on some future challenges for the fire stations, including adequate coverage of the new casino. He says they anticipate an increase in emergency calls because of the casino but are unsure of the amount at this time. Wax believes their current staff should be able to handle the influx if need be.

Annually, the department receives approximately 5,000 emergency medical calls and approximately 2,300 fire, rescue or other emergency calls. This means between 14-20 calls per day on average, and reports show that number is continuing to rise.

“Some times these guys leave the station in the morning and they go to call, after call, after call, after call," said Wax. "It’s not uncommon to see an uneaten dinner sitting on the table."

Two other challenges on the stations’ “future radar” include flooding at Station One and affected response time due to the city’s 32 railroad crossings. Wax says the departments are looking into grants and funding to subside the financial woes and inconvenience of the flooding. In regards to the tracks, he says they are “constantly working to improve the situation.”

In the past, departments have asked for information regarding the train locations, speeds, road blockage schedules, and approximate arrival and destination times, but due to security purposes that information is not always made available.

One of the stations’ goals is to work towards Fire Service Accreditation. It consists of the department looking at nation-wide administrative standards and constantly trying to improve.

After the presentation, it was time for a behind the scenes look at how things worked behind those big garage doors.

Some participants walked through the back of an ambulance while others sat high up in the driver seat of Engine 81. Some residents even held “the jaws of life;” a heavy-duty tool used to remove vehicles from an accident in order to rescue the victims.

“Neighbors pay for it [services], they should get to see it in action,” said Bogusz.

And they did. As the tour was winding down, a call came in to Station One over the speakers. Within seconds, the men were in the ambulance, lights flashing and sirens blaring. Moments later they were gone and the garage was quiet.

Participant Nadine McBeth has been a resident of Des Plaines for 66 years and says she enjoys being able to see all the equipment and how things work first hand.

“It gives me a better appreciation for what these men and women do,” said McBeth.

As an alderman, Bogusz says it is his responsibility to educate residents about what these departments have to offer.

Bogusz says he hopes to make residents happier, by giving the city’s departments and services a “human face.”

“We really enjoy sharing with our public what we do," said Wax. "It is our mission to save lives."


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