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second city 911

Monday, November 12, 2012

Alarm over Chicago’s 911 call center changes


The operations floor at Chicago’s 911 center is getting a $31 million upgrade stalled by contract irregularities, but it’s turning into a nightmare that threatens to slow response times to 911 calls, employees contend.
Dispatchers and call takers describe a host of problems, ranging from dropped 911 calls and a new answering system that demands more manpower to computers that no longer allow call takers to monitor radio communications at fire scenes.
They also complain about a new floor plan that moved fire and EMS dispatchers assigned to handle 911 calls from Chicago’s North Side away from call takers who do the same, preventing the two groups from communicating in a way that could speed response times.
“We are not against change. The floor needed to be upgraded. [But] the way they are doing it is dangerous and irresponsible,” said one dispatcher, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of losing his job. “Putting consoles up, then working out the glitches is more suited to an office that handles paper reports — not lives and property. You can’t install something that critical, then play catchup when there are problems.”
The dispatcher claimed that there were 30 dropped calls between 7 a.m. and 2 p.m. on Nov. 7.
“The fire call taker would hear a beep in their headset. They’d start to talk. And the call would drop,” the dispatcher said. “They had a fire at 5613 W. Chicago at 12:34 p.m. and couldn’t get more information on it. They got the initial call and, when a bunch of people started calling, the calls dropped.” 
Under the old system, call takers who handle administrative calls from firehouses, alarm companies or other city departments would automatically get overflow emergency calls. That’s not the case with the new system, putting an additional strain on manpower.
The dispatcher complained about the inability to monitor the “fire-ground” frequency that includes radio communications between firefighters and chiefs at fire scenes.
“The fire [that Capt.] Herbie Johnson died in, the South Side dispatch which is using the new consoles was completely caught off-guard when they asked for a ‘Mayday’ because they couldn’t listen to fire-ground,” the dispatcher said. “It didn’t cause his death or play a role in it. It’s just an example of how it hurts us as dispatchers. If we can hear what firefighters are saying on the scene, we can start to get ready to send more equipment and figure out who to send. That can save a minute or two.”
Gary Schenkel, executive director of the city’s Office of Emergency Management and Communications, countered, “Any reference to Capt. Johnson’s death and a technical problem is 100 percent false. That’s an irresponsible statement.”
Fire Department spokesman Larry Langford agreed that the inability to monitor fire-ground frequency had “absolutely no bearing whatsoever” on Johnson’s death.
Although it’s “nice to have” a system that allows call takers to monitor communications at fire scenes, it’s not necessary, Schenkel said.
“Dispatchers can still hear fire ground. Call takers can’t. The new system does not support that. They don’t need to hear it. They have nothing to do with the operation. That’s a dispatcher’s responsibility,” he said.
Schenkel acknowledged that it’s “challenging” to install a new system and still keep the 911 center functioning 24 hours a day. It requires a “sound-reducing wall” between old and new sections that’s being moved as sections are completed.
But, he said: “We have not had any dropped calls. That’s why we’re very cautious about the progress. We want to make sure it’s absolutely, 100 percent functional before we move to each sequence. We test for two weeks before we move on and incorporate the next new piece of technology. That’s why the first phase will take much longer than the subsequent six phases. My quote to AT&T is they won’t put in a system that is not 100 percent accurate before installation.”
Two years ago, Inspector General Joe Ferguson accused high-ranking officials of the office that runs Chicago’s $217 million 911 center of more than $23 million worth of contract irregularities that created “significant risk to the city’s emergency preparedness.”
Ferguson contended that the Office of Emergency Management and Communications improperly routed a sole-source contract to Schaumburg-based Motorola when the award should have been competitively bid.
That delayed an overhaul of the 17-year-old system that Schenkel said was desperately needed. The installation should be completed by the end of the year.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Funeral procession through 19th Ward set for fallen firefighter Herbie Johnson


The funeral procession for fallen Chicago Fire Department Capt. Herbie Johnson will run through the 19th Ward that he called home.
A funeral Mass will be said at 11 a.m. Thursday at St. Rita of Cascia High School, 7740 S. Western Ave. in Chicago.
The Rev. Frank Kurucz, pastor of St. Cajetan Roman Catholic Church, where Johnson was a parishioner, will be the celebrant. He expects the Mass will last about two hours.
The procession afterward will head south on Western Avenue to 111th Street, and west on 111th to Mount Olivet Catholic Cemetery, 2755 W. 111th St.
As is often the case when a firefighter dies in the line of duty, dozens of fire departments are expected to send representatives to the funeral, Kurucz said.
The Rev. Thomas McCarthy, chairman of the board and chaplain at St. Rita, will deliver the homily, Kurucz said. The Rev. Thomas Mulchrone, chaplain for the Chicago Fire Department, will deliver the eulogy, Kurucz said.
Johnson, 54, lived in the Morgan Park community. He died Friday from injuries suffered while battling a house fire in the 2300 block of West 50th Place. He is the first Chicago firefighter to die in the line of duty since 2010.
Visitation begins at 3 p.m. Wednesday at St. Rita, the high school attended by Johnson and his children.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

GOD BLESS HER AND HER FAMILY

  CHICAGO TEEN WHO KILLED 911 DISPATCHER SENTENCED TO 25 YEARS IN PRISON

 CHICAGO — A Chicago teenager arrested in the death of a 911 dispatcher who was killed in a car crash has pleaded guilty to murder and was sentenced to 25 years in prison.
In a news release, the Cook County State's Attorney's office said that 18-year-old Marquis Harrison entered his plea on Friday.
Harrison was charged after a July 10, 2011 accident that killed 42-year-old Marciea Adkins. Authorities say Harrison had stolen the SUV and was being pursued by police when he slammed into a car Adkins was driving after getting off work at Chicago's Office of Emergency Management and Communications.
According to the news release, the state's attorney's office says Harrison must serve his entire 25-year sentence.

 

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

TECHNICAL DIFFICULTIES




Sunday, April 15, 2012

NEW RADIOS

 Fire Department Begins Switch To Digital Radios

CHICAGO (CBS) – After six years of testing – and spending more than $20 million – the Chicago Fire Department has finally started to go digital.
The switchover from analog to digital radios began Sunday at 8 a.m., with EMS paramedics getting the new radios.
Motorola got the no-bid contract in 2006, but tests of the digital system showed garbled transmissions and dead zones.
The switchover from analog to digital radios began Sunday at 8 a.m., with EMS paramedics getting the new radios.
Motorola got the no-bid contract in 2006, but tests of the digital system showed garbled transmissions and dead zones.
 Now, Fire Department spokesman Larry Langford says they’re ready to go digital.

“The fire department has been testing the system, along with OEMC (the Office of Emergency Management and Communications), and the Fire Department at this time is satisfied with the performance of the system, and we are ready to go live,” Langford said.
Langford says firefighters will start training with the digital radios in June and will switch to digital before the end of the year.

“Every person on the rig will have a radio,” Langford says. That will be a first for the Fire Department – where everyone has a radio.
A federal report blamed a lack of radios, in part, for the death of two firefighters at a South Side fire in 2010.
The Fire Department disagrees with the conclusion of that report.
“Communication had nothing to do with the onset of that tragedy,” Langford says.

Langford says the department will keep the option to switch back to analog, if necessary.
“Other cities in the past switched into the digital system and found they had problems and could not revert to the analog easily,” Langford said. “We have tested the system thoroughly and we believe the system is up to performance, but because we are always concerned about safety, the analog system will remain available for some time.”
Langford says 500 digital radios are being used by EMS paramedics now.
About 2,000 radios will go to firefighters, Langford says.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Overtime pay spikes at 911 center


BY FRAN SPIELMAN
Overtime at Chicago’s 911 emergency center more than doubled during the first two months of this year, thanks to a 13.2 percent increase in call volume and Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s decision to reduce the ranks of police and fire dispatchers, records show.
Police dispatchers wracked up 10,024 hours of overtime in January and February, at a cost of $516,642, compared to 5,247 hours with a $247,662 price tag during the same period a year ago, records show.
Fire dispatchers piled up 3,504 overtime hours at a cost of $220,653 during the two-month period, versus 1,521 hours and $96,366 a year ago.
The alarming increases — which came as the number of calls went up by 13.2 percent, or 108,000 calls — are outlined in a March 15 email to 911 center department heads from James Carroll, finance director for the city’s Office of Emergency Management and Communications.
“Please respond by March 20 with the reason for the overtime, as well as a plan to reduce your section’s overtime,” Carroll wrote. “Hiring new employees is not an option.”
 The Emanuel administration blamed much of the overtime surge on an agreement with city unions that expired on June 30, 2011 and substituted cash overtime for compensatory time. “The overtime payments this year are consistent with what we paid in previous years when the [union agreement] was not in effect,” OEMC spokesperson Delores Robinson wrote in an email to the Sun-Times.
During City Council budget hearings last fall, Gary Schenkel, executive director of OEMC, argued it made more sense to build in $3.2 million in annual overtime — roughly $8,000 per employee — than to hire more dispatchers, which would cost $120,000 a year per employee for salary and benefits.
“We have historical data that will allow us to schedule to the peak periods and peak times that historically we get a greater call volume,” Schenkel said then, predicting that operators would continue to be able to answer most 911 calls within three rings.
“It’s almost like a bell curve as to when it starts to escalate and when it starts to drop off. As you hit the summer months, that bell curve starts going up. Then, as we hit the cooler weather after the holidays and the festivals, we start ramping down.”
A fire dispatcher, who spoke on the condition anonymity, said the overtime surge in January and February make clear that $3.2 million won’t be nearly enough to cover a year of overtime.
“It’s definitely gonna be a long year — not just the NATO summit but other things that are coming down the road,” the dispatcher said. “There’s been some mistakes made in the accounting for how many people we need at the 911 center.”
The fire dispatcher argued that the demotion of three supervisors has some people working around the clock.
“It’s a tough enough job,” the dispatcher said. “Now, they’re saying, ‘I need you to work your two days off.’ It’s a wear and tear on these guys. You can see it.”
Understaffing has been a chronic problem at the 911 center over the years. As a result, a handful of call-takers have been able to more than double their salaries in overtime.
Emanuel’s original plan called for eliminating the jobs of 17 fire dispatchers, laying off nine others and shrinking supervisory ranks from 13 to eight. After union negotiations, the mayor ended up eliminating 10 dispatcher vacancies, demoting three supervisors and one dispatcher and laying off one call-taker.
Also, the jobs of 45 police dispatchers were eliminated, and so were four of 22 radio repair technicians.
Earlier this month, the Chicago Police Department pointed to faster response times to 911 calls as proof that the department’s strategy of putting more officers in patrol cars is working.
But the winning streak came to a crashing halt on an unseasonably mild St. Patrick’s Day, when bars and the city’s annual downtown parade drew huge crowds downtown and to River North. Sources said 911 dispatchers were so inundated between 10 p.m. Saturday and 6 a.m. Sunday that only 18 percent of the calls received during that time were answered within two to three rings.
That’s one of the lowest percentages in the 17 years since the $217 million 911 center opened on the West Side.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

SANTIAGO APPOINTED FIRE COMMISSIONER

Former head of Chicago's 911 center named new fire commissioner
By John Byrne and Hal Dardick
Tribune reporters

Mayor Rahm Emanuel today appointed the former head of the city's 911 center as fire commissioner as he formally announced the resignation of Robert Hoff, a veteran hero firefighter.
Emanuel praised Hoff for his "determined and dedicated service," mentioning his many awards as a firefighter. "The true tribute to his service is the lives” of those he saved, Emanuel said at a news conference.
Hoff said his decision to step down was personal.
"I have part of the personal reasons here with me today,” he said, pointing to his wife, his son and two of his grandchildren. “What in life is more beautiful than spending time" with grandchildren.
Hoff also paid tribune to the firefighters he served with. “What makes you a good chief or what makes you a good commissioner is the people who serve under you."
Hoff, a third-generation hero firefighter, was appointed by then-Mayor Richard Daley to lead the department in June 2010. Hoff was popular with the rank and file.
“Unless you crawled that hall, with flames licking over your head, you don’t know what it’s like to be there,” Chicago Firefighters Union Local 2 President Thomas Ryan said Wednesday night. “I know it’s a cliché, but in a job like this, you need somebody who understands what that’s like.”
Hoff, a fire veteran of more than 30 years, twice was awarded the department's top honor for bravery. In 1992, he rescued elderly residents from burning buildings following a gas explosion. In 1997, he saved 4-year-old twin boys from an Englewood building fire. Hoff also spent 21 days in a burn unit after suffering injuries fighting a fire in 1984.
The incoming fire commissioner, Jose Santiago, was an assistant deputy fire commissioner before taking over the city's Office of Emergency Management and Communications in 2010 under Mayor Richard Daley. Santiago has been serving as deputy fire chief for operations since leaving OEMC.
Santiago was head of OEMC when the decision was made to shut down Lake Shore Drive during the February 2011 snowstorm that left hundreds of vehicles stranded on the roadway. He oversaw a report on how the city handled the storm that recommended more access points to the drive and rerouting buses during severe weather.
Emanuel noted that Santiago served 33 years with the Chicago Fire Department. "He has been the leader in setting the department’s long-term goals and strategy,” the mayor said. Emanuel replaced Santiago at OEMC with Gary Schenkel upon taking office.
Hoff leaves as the union is about to start negotiations on a new contract with the city. In October, Emanuel said he would not rule out trying to cut the number of firefighters per truck or closing firehouses to save money.
Emanuel was responding to Hoff’s testimony at a budget hearing that he's "deathly against” closing firehouses and reducing truck staffing.
Today, Emanuel and Santiago sidestepped questions about possible changes in the department. The primary question is "How can we do changes safely," Santiago said.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

OCCUPY OEMC


FROM A NEWS RELEASE
CHICAGO, Illinois — The City of Chicago has agreed on its 2012 budget, which contains layoffs to 911 Operators.

Cuts have been made to the front line of defense in Chicago. 911 Operators answer and dispatch equipment to any Police, Fire and EMS emergency and these cuts will effect the normal daily functions for emergency responses. Manpower shortages will lead to longer wait times for someone to answer an emergency call, which may lead to increased response times. Without these trained personnel available to answer the phones, the citizens of Chicago should be prepared for severe changes in the 911 experience.

The Supervisors, Dispatchers and Call Takers take their jobs seriously and are greatly concerned about these cuts. In a statement, organizers of the protest said: "We do our job with pride and professionalism and fear that these cuts will make it that Emergency Services in Chicago will be inadequate, therefore endangering the health and wellbeing of the Citizens and their property."

For more information on Occupy OEMC, visit https:// www.facebook.com/pages/Occupy-OEMC/148123851961646 , on Facebook, or send an email to href="http://www.occupyoemc@gmail.com "> www.occupyoemc@gmail.com

About Occupy OEMC

This group is comprised of 911 Operators and Citizens that are concerned about the dangerous situations these cuts to the Operations floor can mean to Chicago

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Emanuel picks fights with unions


Unfortunately, Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s claim in the Nov. 20 Sun-Times that he is “working well with Chicago’s unions” is not supported by facts. To the contrary, Emanuel has needlessly picked fights with city unions, refusing to negotiate in good faith or respond to offers of cooperation.
Rather than valuing the contributions that teachers, firefighters, nurses, librarians, police officers, bus drivers and other public servants make to keep Chicago working, he has consistently sought to scapegoat these men and women for the city’s problems. Sun-Times editorials have rightly criticized Emanuel and his administration for “trying to bully” and “blame workers” with “spin and mockery.”
More to the point, Emanuel’s record doesn’t support his assertion that he sides with “hardworking middle-class families who pay the tax bills” — not with his 2012 budget plan that cuts jobs and public services while reducing corporate taxes and imposing regressive fees on working people. He will shorten library hours, close police stations and neighborhood health clinics, potentially lengthen emergency response times and eliminate hundreds of jobs amid historic unemployment.
At the same time, Emanuel’s budget will give big corporations a $20 million-a-year break by eliminating the “head tax.” It makes no effort to reform TIF districts that sap revenue from schools, public safety and other services. And it comes as Emanuel says his top priorities for state legislation are cutting taxes for the Chicago Mercantile Exchange and cutting modest pensions for public servants.
It’s ironic that Emanuel’s statements came on a day he campaigned for President Brack Obama. The president’s record is one of fighting to save safety net programs and protect public jobs while pushing rich people and big corporations to pay their fair share of taxes. Mayor Emanuel’s priorities look a lot more like those of the president’s anti-union, budget-slashing, protect-the-wealthy political opponents.
Michael Shields, president, Fraternal Order of Police
Lodge 7 Chicago
Karen Lewis, president,
Chicago Teachers Union
Henry Bayer,
executive director,
AFSCME Council 31
Jorge Ramirez, president, Chicago Federation of Labor

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

MAYBE SOME HOPE


Alderman, union fight Emanuel plan to reduce police and fire dispatchers 
BY FRAN SPIELMAN

Chicago firefighter-turned-alderman Nick Sposato (36th) and the union representing fire dispatchers maneuvered Monday to kill Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s plan to reduce the ranks of police and fire dispatchers at the city’s 911 emergency center.
Fire and EMS dispatcher Jeff Johnson , union steward for IBEW Local 9, said the mayor’s plan to eliminate the jobs of 17 fire dispatchers, lay off nine others and shrink the supervisory ranks from 13 to 8 could send response times and employee burn-out rates through the roof.
The jobs of 45 police dispatchers would also be eliminated. So would four of 22 radio repair technicians at a time when radio and data frequencies need to be reprogrammed to comply with a Federal Communications Commission mandate.
“We strive to answer every call in under two rings. With these cuts, it’ll go from two seconds to 15 seconds. That’s a very dangerous number,” Johnson said Monday.
“If we have call takers working 16 hours a day, people are gonna get burned out. They’re gonna start making mistakes. It’s gonna put public safety in danger. They’ll end up paying more in overtime and in lawsuits” than they would have in salaries.
Sposato said he doesn’t buy the mayor’s office’s argument that paying overtime to a leaner staff of dispatchers would be “less expensive than having a full-time staff person” who is not needed year-round.
Not when dispatchers are already stretched so thin, some of them are doubling their annual salaries in overtime.
“You’re playing with fire there. You know what happens when you play with fire? You get burned,” Sposato said. “People are furious all the time about being put on hold. We have a lot of problems with 911 services, through no fault of dispatchers. I don’t want to cut dispatchers. I don’t think that’s the place to cut. It would lead to an increase in response times.”
Ald. Scott Waguespack (32nd) argued that 911 dispatchers “get burned out just like air traffic controllers. And if they make one mistake, it can be deadly.” Ald. Bob Fioretti (2nd) called the 911 center “one of the many places not to cut.”
Ald. John Arena (45th) noted that front-line workers have been “cut back to skeleton levels” in tree trimming, street and alley light repairs and he would hate to see similar cuts impact the 911 center.
“A full-time employee with benefits and pension can cost more [than] paying overtime to one employee, but what’s the burn-out rate? That’s an intense job. We have to look at that. I want to know how are we gonna deliver services in a critical area like that when they’re making this many cuts,” Arena said.
The Chicago Sun-Times reported Sunday that Emanuel’s plan to lay off more than 500 city employees and eliminate 776 vacancies could impact the 911 center in a way that could slow response times or stretch call takers to the limit.
In an e-mail response to the Chicago Sun-Times, Emanuel’s communications director Chris Mather argued that it was “completely speculative and incorrect” for the union to suggest that layoffs would trigger an increase in response times to 911 calls.
The operations floor has already been operating with vacant positions unfilled and “continues to maintain the highest level of efficiency,” she said.
“Residents can still expect a fast response followed by a quick dispatch of resources,” Mather said, noting that the city has “budgeted for any possible increase in overtime.”
In 2009, more than 60 operators at the 911 center each earned more than $20,000 in overtime pay. One racked up $90,552 in overtime, more than his $77,784 annual salary. 

Saturday, October 15, 2011

SOMEONE IN THE MEDIA FINALLY LOOKED AT THE BUDGET


Sun-Times analysis: Who will be hit by Emanuel’s 517 layoffs
BY FRAN SPIELMAN

      Mayor Rahm Emanuel has talked about laying off more than 500 city employees and eliminating 776 vacant jobs, but he has not identified them or explained what city services will suffer.
Now, an analysis by the Chicago Sun-Times and one of the impacted unions shows where the ax will fall — in a way that could slow response time to 911 calls or stretch call takers to the limit, decimate Chicago Public libraries and force dramatic cuts in health and human services.
At the Office of Emergency Management and Communications, where 911 call takers have more than doubled their annual salaries in overtime over the years, the budget calls for 108 layoffs and the elimination of 80 vacancies. Seventy-three of the layoffs are recently fired Loop traffic-control-aides.
The ranks of police dispatchers would be reduced by 45 or 10.3 percent. The number of fire communications operators would drop by 17 or 16.6 percent.
“Management … is saying the wait time for a 911 call will go from one-to-three seconds to ten-to-fifteen seconds, possibly more. This is very disturbing,” said an OEMC employee, who asked to remain anonymous.
Employees have also been told that four of 22 radio repair technicians stand to lose their jobs at a time when radio and data frequencies need to be reprogrammed to comply with a Federal Communications Commission mandate.
“A shortage of techs will cause a delay in abiding by this mandate and also in replacing aging equipment. A failure of the older equipment during an emergency without repair personnel would be catastrophic,” the employee said.
In 2009, more than 60 operators at the 911 center each earned more than $20,000 in overtime pay. One racked up $90,552 in overtime, more than his $77,784 annual salary.
Still, the mayor’s office defended the job cuts, noting that paying overtime “is less expensive than having a full-time staff person” who is not needed year-round.
“Safety remains the top priority, and we will continue to maintain our efficiency,” said Kathleen Strand, a spokeswoman for the city’s Office of Budget and Management.
“We know our historical high volume and peak time and, if we have to provide overtime, it has already been accounted for in the budget.”
As for the FCC deadline, Strand said, “The city is making every effort to meet this mandate and the success of executing an inter-operable communications plan is not directly tied to the number of electrical technicians that will be laid off.”
Emanuel has talked about reducing library hours on Monday and Friday mornings. But, that does not begin to explain the 363 job cuts he has made there.
Sixty librarians, 59 library clerks and all of the remaining “pages” — workers charged with re-shelving books — would be cut.
In 2009, then-Mayor Richard M. Daley laid off 120 library pages, nearly half the complement. When books piled up because there were not enough people to re-stack shelves, Daley was forced to reduce weekday hours to accommodate an “exhausted” and overworked library staff.
Henry Bayer, executive director of AFSCME Council 31, called the Health Department cuts the most devastating of all.
The budget calls for closing six of the city’s 12 mental health clinics, fully funding just two of them and implementing the mayor’s summer plan to have seven city health clinics partner with federally-qualified health centers.
Nearly 200 grant-funded positions would also be cut from the Department of Family and Support Services. The targeted workers serve Chicago’s most vulnerable residents, including domestic violence victims, the elderly, homeless and at-risk youth.
“If you presented this budget to [Republican House Speaker] John Boehner in Congress, he’d pass it in a minute. I hope the City Council won’t,” Bayer said.
“The mayor is cutting into basic services and laying off hundreds of front-line employees who provide those vital services. ... I can only conclude he’s not concerned about providing vital services to people in communities. His total focus seems to be on the business community.”
Strand insisted that the city was “reinvesting $500,000 in enhanced psychiatry services and care coordination” in the consolidated mental health clinics. That’s a move she claimed would provide “improved service at a lower cost.”
“The city will maintain services for those most in need — uninsured patients — but provide the services in a more cost-effective manner. The city will actually be able to increase services provided and save $3 million,” she said, noting that all 3,000 uninsured patients would continue to be served by the city.
As for cuts in the Department of Family and Support Services, Strand noted that the grant-funded positions were eliminated “in direct response to funding cuts that took place earlier this year” at the state and federal levels.                             

Saturday, September 24, 2011

RADIO PROBLEMS LINKED TO FIREFIGHTER DEATHS




Five years and $23M later, Chicago fire communications system isn't in use
City gave Motorola a no-bid contract in 2006

By John Byrne, Tribune reporter

The city has spent nearly $23 million on a new Chicago Fire Department digital communications system that still doesn't work after more than five years — a shortcoming back in the spotlight following a federal report that criticizes the agency for not having enough radios during a December fire that killed two firefighters.
Yet as costs mount and test after test fails, there is still no firm timeline on when the system will be up and running.
"Sometime in 2012," Roderick Drew, a spokesman for the city's Office of Emergency Management and Communications, said Friday when asked how soon the 3,000 new radios would come online.
The switch to a better communications system has been delayed since Motorola got a no-bid contract in March 2006 under what the city's chief internal watchdog has said were questionable circumstances.
Chicago, which makes do with its half-century-old analog system, is the largest city in the country that doesn't equip every firefighter with a radio.
Investigators at the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health cited the lack of radios as a contributing factor in the Dec. 22 deaths of two firefighters. The fire in an abandoned building in the 1700 block of East 75th Street killed firefighters Corey Ankum and Edward Stringer and injured 19 others.
The federal agency found that only five of the 13 firefighters who were in the building when the roof collapsed had radios. None of those firefighters provided supervisors outside the building with a description of the conditions inside, the report said.
But city officials say they haven't bought more of the analog radios currently in use because they're waiting for the Fire Department's new digital communications system to be ready. "That would be an expense we can't afford," Fire Commissioner Robert Hoff said Friday.
Hoff said a lack of radios was not the problem at the fire that killed Ankum and Stringer. The fire chief urged patience, saying digital radios have been problematic for fire departments in big cities across the country.
"When (Motorola) first gave us the radios, they weren't used to what we do," Hoff said. Over the past several years, Motorola has made improvements to the radios and the city's antennas so the equipment will work better, he said. "We're very close to where we need to be," Hoff said.
Repeated tests of the Motorola radios — most recently in July — have revealed problems with firefighters' ability to communicate with one another. Background noise garbles transmissions, there are dead spots and people inside buildings sometimes have trouble getting through to those outside, Drew said.
The firefighters union has been slow to criticize the delays in switching to the new system.
Firefighters Union Local 2 President Thomas Ryan said he wants to see as many of his members with radios as possible, but said he doesn't want to rush to start using the digital system. "There have been some dead spots, some problems with guys understanding each other" during tests, Ryan said.
"The bottom line is, we want to make sure it works before we start using it," Ryan said. "It's not a perfect system (now), but they're trying to get things to the point where it's useful to us."
On Friday, Motorola spokeswoman Matthew Messinger referred questions about the digital radio system to the city.
Chicago firefighters and paramedics use analog radios that are incompatible. If they want to speak to one another, they have to carry two radios, Fire Department spokesman Larry Langford said. And if police want to talk to firefighters, a dispatcher at the city's 911 center has to connect them — a process the digital radios are supposed to eliminate.
City officials first said they were seeking a new radio system after a state report criticized the way emergency crews communicated while fighting a 2003 fire at the Cook County Administration Building, 69 W. Washington St. Six people died of smoke inhalation after they became trapped by locked doors in the building's stairwell.
And the federal government has been pushing emergency responders toward digital systems since Sept. 11, 2001, because they allow firefighters, police officers and other agencies to more easily communicate.
Under then-Mayor Richard Daley, the city awarded the contract to Motorola without a bidding process.
Motorola's long relationship with Chicago has been key in gaining it lucrative contracts to service the communications needs of the city's first responders without having to compete against other firms for the business.
"Motorola has been dedicated to the City of Chicago for many decades," a Motorola sales manager noted in a 2005 letter asking that the city award the company the digital radio contract rather than going to the open market.
In selecting Motorola without taking bids, OEMC officials said using the company would preserve "the city's prior investment of nearly $2 million" in Motorola equipment purchased earlier, according to city Inspector General Joseph Ferguson. But the city actually had invested only $350,000 in that equipment, according to a report Ferguson's office released in October.
"OEMC had falsified documents to push the initial purchase through an unrelated contract with the vendor," the report concluded. "OEMC essentially 'bootstrapped' a $23 million contract on an earlier, $350,000 fraudulently obtained purchase."
The cost of the Motorola system originally was estimated to be $14 million, but it has ballooned to nearly $23 million amid dozens of change orders. Meanwhile, Motorola was given another no-bid city contract in 2007, for $6 million to provide radio devices.
The larger Motorola digital communications system contract was scheduled to run out in February 2011, but OEMC granted the company a one-year extension.
Gary Schenkel, the new OEMC executive director brought in by Mayor Rahm Emanuel, said getting the system right is most important. The city will start issuing digital radios to paramedics this fall, he said.
"We'll have the whole program ready to go in 2012," Schenkel said

Thursday, September 8, 2011

PREPAREDNESS

Thursday, September 1, 2011

CAN YOU HEAR ME NOW?



10 years after 9/11 terror attacks, emergency workers still struggling to talk via radios

By Associated Press, Published: August 31

WASHINGTON — Amid the chaos of the Sept. 11 attacks in 2001, emergency responders found they could not communicate with each other. That problem persists 10 years later, according to a review of the 9/11 Commission’s recommendations.
A National Preparedness Group report released Wednesday concludes that the recommendation that a nationwide broadband network for emergency responders be created “continues to languish.”
“Despite the lives at stake, the recommendation to improve radio interoperability for first responders has stalled because of a political fight over whether to allocate 10 MHz of radio spectrum ... directly to public safety for a nationwide network, or auction it off to a commercial wireless bidder who would then be required to provide priority access on its network dedicated to public safety during emergencies,” says the report, whose authors include 9/11 Commission chairmen Lee Hamilton and Thomas Kean.
Law enforcement and emergency responders around the country have long supported the creation of the communication network. In January, President Barack Obama announced his support for allocating the radio space, known as the D-block spectrum, to police and other emergency workers.
Bills that would set aside the D-block and create a communications network have been introduced in both the House and the Senate this year but so far have not been passed in either chamber.
Several big wireless carriers have supported auctioning off the airwaves to the wireless industry, a move that the government has estimated would raise about $3.1 billion. That could help pay to build a public safety communications network.
The Federal Communications Commission has tried to auction off the D Block before. But that 2008 auction required that the winning bidder help build a network to be shared by first responders and give them priority in an emergency. It did not attract any serious bidders.
The National Preparedness Group report said statewide communications interoperability plans and the creation of a national emergency communications plan have improved emergency coordination across different jurisdictions. But more work needs to be done and the ultimate solution, the report said, is to follow the 9/11 Commission’s recommendation and create a nationwide communications network.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Friday, August 26, 2011

FIREFIGHTERS HURT

View more videos at: http://nbcchicago.com.

Monday, August 15, 2011

311

Sunday, July 10, 2011

TRAGEDY






911 operator killed in crash involving stolen vehicle
 

A 911 operator driving home after completing her shift died after a man fleeing from police in a stolen luxury SUV drove into her vehicle in the Bucktown neighborhood, police said.
The accident occurred a little after 6 a.m. near Armitage Avenue and Hoyne Avenue, police said.
The victim was identified as Marciea Adkins, 42. She was pronounced dead at 6:54 a.m. at Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center, according to the Cook County Medical Examiner’s office.
At about 6:15 a.m., Shakespeare District officers stopped the SUV at Blackhawk Street and Elston Avenue after it blew through a red light, police said in a statement.
After police stepped out of their vehicle, the suspect reversed the SUV and struck the car of a police supervisor who was on the scene and then fled in the vehicle, police said.
Police followed the man's SUV -- which later turned out to be reported stolen -- as the suspect blew through another stop sign while traveling northbound on Hoyne and struck a vehicle driven by Adkins which was traveling westbound an Armitage a little more than a mile away from the original stop, officials said.
After striking Adkins' car and a second, parked vehicle, the suspect fled the SUV on foot before being taken into custody, police said.
Adkins worked as a 911 dispatcher, according to officials from the Chicago Office of Emergency Management and Communications.
According to an e-mail press release from Chicago EOMC Executive Gray Schenkel, the agency was "shocked and deeply saddened" by the death of the woman, who had been driving home after her work shift when the accident happened. The release said the woman had worked at OEMC since December 1996.
The release said said that "According to her coworkers and supervisors, she was the nicest, most positive person you would ever want to meet."
At 11 a.m., the woman's car was removed from the busy Bucktown corner where it had appeared to slam sideways -- on the driver's side -- into a fire hydrant.
A Range Rover that was also involved in the crash smashed into a building just north of Armitage on Hoyne.
The early morning crash woke up many in the neighborhood. They described the chilling sight of the victim, who was slumped in the driver's seat, and a desperate attempt by firefighters to free her.
Some also saw or heard a man try to flee the scene after jumping from the Range Rover and later said they saw the man taken from the block in handcuffs. The man is hospitalized but remains in custody, police said.
Witnesses also said several Chicago police vehicles were on the scene within seconds of the accident.

UPDATE:

On any given shift, police dispatcher Marciea Adkins could have monitored a police pursuit, her voice providing a key link between the officers in the chase and other units on the street.
Adkins died early Sunday driving home from her overnight shift after her car was struck by a teenager fleeing from police in stolen SUV, police said. The 16-year-old had touched off a nearly 2-mile pursuit after he backed into a police vehicle during a traffic stop for failing to stop at a red light, police said.
Adkins, 42, was married to a dispatcher for the Chicago Fire Department, and the couple had a young daughter.
The city flag at Chicago’s Office of Emergency Management and Communications was lowered to half-staff on Sunday, and Adkins’ body was escorted by police and fire vehicles from Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center to the Cook County medical examiner’s office.
Grief-stricken friends and family gathered at her Northwest Side home, which is less than a mile from the intersection where Adkins was struck -- at Hoyne and Armitage avenues in the Bucktown neighborhood.
“According to her co-workers and supervisors, she was the nicest, most positive person you would ever want to meet,” OEMC Executive Director Gary Schenkel said in a statement.
The crash, at 6:15 a.m., startled several Bucktown residents from their sleep as Adkins’ car seemed to buckle around a fire hydrant on the driver’s side and the SUV, a Range Rover, crashed into a building.
After police had tried to stop the teen at Blackhawk Street and Elston Avenue, he fled north, winding up on Hoyne, where he fatally struck Adkins as she drove west on Armitage, police said.
According to department policy, officers must contact an OEMC dispatcher with details about any pursuit, and a supervisor must monitor and manage the chase. Sources told the Tribune that the pursuit Sunday was called into the dispatch center and monitored.
Police had activated their emergency lights and sirens, but the speed the vehicles were traveling was not released Sunday.
After the crash, the 16-year-old bolted from the SUV, rolled over the hood, darted down a narrow gangway and into an alley and fled west, a witness said. Officers did the same. They rolled over hoods and chased him on foot, catching up with him nearby.
“It was just like you see in cop videos,” said a woman who didn’t want to be named because she helped identify the teen to police. “They were doing their job for sure.”
Once arrested, the teen, who allegedly had been drinking, was taken to a hospital for treatment. No charges had been filed Sunday evening.
It was the chase on foot that woke up Teddy Vehar, 29, whose window is beside the gangway the teen charged through. He heard “flip-flop” steps, he said.
“It sounded like he had big old feet,” said Vehar, who grabbed a bat and ran to his front door in the 2000 block of North Hoyne, preparing to confront a criminal.
But outside, he instead saw Adkins’ wrecked car. She was trapped and not moving. Others said her head was slumped to the side.
Stunned, Vehar offered his bat to help free Adkins, who he said appeared to be turning white. “The poor lady,” Vehar said.
Vehar and others said the Fire Department worked frantically to free Adkins, crawling over the hood of the car to reach her.
“It’s just sad,” said Mike Byrne, 29. “Looking at her, you knew she was gone, and even if she wasn’t, it wasn’t going to be easy to bring her back.”
After freeing her, the firefighters turned to the trunk of the car, ripping it apart, presumably to make sure there were not any other victims.
Several neighbors were shaken by the violent crash. Byrne noted that it happened about an hour before many in the busy neighborhood typically woke up.
“There’s so many people that walk around here with strollers … people with dogs,” he said.
And as the crash investigation stretched through the morning, the streets filled with joggers, dog-walkers and families pushing strollers, many of whom stopped to gaze on the mangled vehicles.
“It just makes my heart so sad,” said the woman who watched the foot chase. “All for a Range Rover.”
A woman at Adkins’ home said the family did not want to comment. Adkins had worked as a dispatcher since 1996.
Shortly after 11 a.m., a procession of six cars and one ambulance left the hospital for the medical examiner’s office, the lights flashing on police and fire vehicles but the sirens were silent. Loved ones rode in Ambulance 43 accompanying Adkins.
Two hospital employees watched as the solemn journey began.

NEWEST UPDATE:

A 16-year-old boy was charged this morning in connection with a fatal traffic crash that left a police dispatcher dead over the weekend.
Marquis Harrison, of the 200 block of South Lotus Avenue, was charged as an adult with one count of first-degree murder and felony burglary, according to the Cook County state's attorney's office. He was also charged with misdemeanor DUI and received two citations.
Authorities said the teen was driving a stolen Range Rover at 6:15 a.m. Sunday and was being chased by police when he plowed into a car near the intersection of Hoyne and Armitage avenues that was driven by Marciea Adkins, a veteran police dispatcher on her way home after working the overnight shift.
The crash startled severalBucktown residents from their sleep as Adkins’ car seemed to buckle around a fire hydrant on the driver’s side, and the SUV, crashed into a building.
The 16-year-old had touched off a nearly 2-mile pursuit after he backed into a police vehicle during a traffic stop for failing to stop at a red light, police said.
Adkins, 42, was married to a dispatcher for the Chicago Fire Department and the couple had a young daughter.
The city flag at the city’s Office of Emergency Management and Communications was lowered to half-staff on Sunday, and Adkins’ body was escorted by police and fire vehicles from Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center to the Cook County medical examiner’s office.
After police had tried to stop the teen at Blackhawk Street and Elston Avenue, he fled north, winding up on Hoyne, where he struck Adkins as she drove west on Armitage, police said.
According to department policy, officers must contact an OEMC dispatcher with details about any pursuit, and a supervisor must monitor and manage the chase. Sources told the Tribune that the pursuit Sunday was called into the dispatch center and monitored.
Police had activated their emergency lights and sirens, but the speed the vehicles were traveling was not released Sunday.
After the crash, the 16-year-old bolted from the SUV, rolled over the hood, darted down a narrow gangway and into an alley and fled west, a witness said. Officers did the same. They rolled over hoods and chased him on foot, catching up with him nearby.
“It was just like you see in cop videos,” said a woman who didn’t want to be named because she helped identify the teen to police. “They were doing their job for sure.”
Once arrested, the teen, who allegedly had been drinking, was taken to a hospital for treatment.
It was the chase on foot that woke up Teddy Vehar, 29, whose window is beside the gangway the teen charged through. He heard “flip-flop” steps, he said.
“It sounded like he had big old feet,” said Vehar, who grabbed a bat and ran to his front door in the 2000 block of North Hoyne, preparing to confront a criminal.
But outside, he instead saw Adkins’ wrecked car. She was trapped and not moving. Others said her head was slumped to the side.
Stunned, Vehar offered his bat to help free Adkins, who he said appeared to be turning white. “The poor lady,” Vehar said.
Vehar and others said the Fire Department worked frantically to free Adkins, crawling over the hood of the car to reach her.
“It’s just sad,” said Mike Byrne, 29. “Looking at her, you knew she was gone, and even if she wasn’t, it wasn’t going to be easy to bring her back.”
The teen is expected to appear in bond court at noon.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Saturday, May 28, 2011

ILLINOIS SCREWS ITS RETIREES AND WORKERS


More than 21,000 retired city employees under age 65 will pay 15 percent more for their health insurance — an increase a union official called “alarming” and an expert said spotlitghts a $1.3 billion unfunded liability for Chicago taxpayers.
Paul Geiger, general counsel for the Fraternal Order of Police, said the first double-digit increase since 2004 will create an “enormous hardship” for retired couples on fixed incomes who are not yet eligible for Medicare.
Beginning July 1, their health insurance premiums will rise by $89-a-month — from $626 to $715. The monthly cost for Medicare-eligible couples will decline by $20 — from $217 to $197.
read more...

Monday, May 2, 2011

WELCOME TO THE NEW DIRECTOR

Gary W. Schenkel was the director of the Office of the Federal Protective Service, one of the six divisions of the National Protection and Programs Directorate, U.S. Department of Homeland Security from March 2007 until July 2010. A retired Marine Corps Lieutenant Colonel, Schenkel has experience in a wide range of arenas, including organizational transformation efforts, security planning for public facilities, logistical planning and execution and business administration.
more...

Thursday, April 28, 2011

IRONMAN FIREMAN

Saturday, April 16, 2011

BLIZZARD

OEMC INVESTIGATIONS


An IGO investigation determined that three Office of Emergency Management & Communications

(OEMC) Foremen of Linemen falsified their mileage reimbursement requests.5 Thirteen
surveillances of Foreman A‟s personal vehicle, 8 surveillances of Foreman B‟s personal vehicle,
and 3 surveillances of the Foreman C‟s personal vehicle were conducted while parked at their 1345
W. Madison Avenue work location.

The investigation found that on 11 of the 13 surveillance days (or 85% of the time), Foreman A

falsified his mileage reimbursement entries by claiming he drove a total of 388 miles in his car
during his work hours when surveillance established that his car never moved. Based on the false
entries for those surveillance days, Foreman A improperly claimed and received a total of $226 in
mileage reimbursement payments from the City.
The investigation also found that on 7 of 8 surveillance days (or 87% of the time), Foreman B

falsified his mileage reimbursement entries by claiming he drove a total of 243 miles in his
personal car during work hours when surveillance established in fact that his car never moved.
Based on the false entries for those surveillance days, Foreman B improperly claimed and received
a total of $139 in mileage reimbursement from the City.
Lastly, the investigation found that on 3 of 4 surveillance days, Foreman C falsified his mileage
reimbursement entries by claiming he drove a total of 101 miles in his personal car during work
hours when surveillance established his car never moved. Based on the false entries for those
surveillance days, Foreman C improperly claimed and received a total of $59 in mileage
reimbursement....
The IGO also conducted surveillance of the General Foreman of Lineman who supervised Foreman

of Linemen A, B and C.6 Surveillance observed the General Foreman swiping in for work at a fire
station near his residence on eight of twelve days, and at a police station near his residence on a
ninth day. This conduct violated OEMC‟s time-keeping policy requiring employees to swipe in at
their assigned location. By not swiping at his assigned location, the General Foreman falsely
indicated to the City that he/she was at work when he/she was not. In addition, after one of the
improper fire station swipes, surveillance observed the General Foreman return to his residence and
remain there for 55 minutes while on the clock....
________________________________________________________________________________

An IGO investigation determined that in an attempt to get out of a parking ticket, an OEMC

employee told multiple police officers that she worked for the Chicago Police Department‟s
Internal Affairs Division (IAD). After observing a CPD Officer write a parking ticket for
illegally parking in a bus stop, the OEMC employee pursued the ticketing officer, claiming that
she worked at IAD, and that she wanted the ticket “taken care of.” In so doing, the OEMC
employee showed the CPD Officer her City of Chicago identification card. The OEMC
employee then called the CPD Officer‟s supervisor, maintaining to that supervisor and others
that she was an IAD employee during several transfers of her call before being able to speak with
a Lieutenant.
The Lieutenant reviewed the circumstances surrounding the ticket, and determined that the

citation was not issued in error. When looking for the OEMC employee‟s contact information on
the CPD database in order to return the ticket to her, the Lieutenant discovered that the OEMC
employee worked for OEMC, not IAD. When the IGO confronted the OEMC employee about
the incident, she admitted to misrepresenting her employment to the CPD and admitted that she
asked the parking ticket to be “taken care of.”
The IGO recommended that the OEMC employee be discharged for violating the City Personnel
Rule that bars “having other City employees perform services or directing other city employees
to perform services for unauthorized purposes.”
OEMC agreed, and termination proceedings have been initiated.

Read the report here

Sunday, April 10, 2011

AUDIT


April 7, 2011

To the Mayor, Members of the City Council, the City Clerk, the City Treasurer, and the residents
of the City of Chicago:
The Inspector General's Office ("I GO") performed an audit of payments disbursed by the Office
of Emergency Management and Communications ("OEMC") from January 1, 2008 to September
30, 2009. The purpose of the audit was to review, test, and evaluate procedures related to
payment disbursements and contract management to determine whether OEMC had effective and
efficient operations and internal controls, as well as adequate policies and procedures in place.
Based upon the results of our audit, we determined that internal controls were not adequate to
prevent waste and misconduct and, therefore, resulted in substandard disbursement and contract
management processes.
More specifically, the audit found deficiencies in internal controls resulting in the following
negative consequences:
• Voucher Manipulation: OEMC's non-payroll disbursements between January 1,2008 and
September 30, 2009 totaled $72,880,188. The sample reviewed during the audit included
$38,633,405, or 53% of the total amount disbursed. We found that at least $13,678,786,
which equates to an extraordinarily high 35% of the commodities purchased in the
sample, did not match the goods and services of the original invoices and/or that the
actual commodities purchased were not related to the contracts from which they were
paid.
• Missing Inventory: During the review of vouchers, we identified a sample of goods
received totaling $134,583. We met with OEMC representatives to validate the existence
of these goods. Of the sample, 38 laserjet printers, 10 computer carrying cases, seven
notebook computers and a digital camera could not be located. These missing goods
were valued at $19,001, or 15% of the sample.
• Common Law Employees: During the audit period, the auditors identified 50 individuals
contracted through seven different vendors who were identified as
contractors/consultants. Based upon initial discussions with OEMC personnel, the
auditors suspected some of these contractors/consultants to be common law employees in
violation of the Shakman Accord. A parallel IGO disciplinary investigation focused on
one of the seven vendors and subsequently determined that eleven of the
contractors/consultants associated with that one vendor alone were, in fact, common law
employees. The investigative findings essentially substantiated the existence of the
preliminarily identified by the Ioo auditors.
During performance of Ioo audit fieldwork, OEMC began formulating and implementing policy
and procedural changes responsive to the broad scale, systemic deficiencies revealed by the
audit. Accordingly, the !GO credits OEMC officials with acknowledging the audit findings and
promptly moving to address them through remedial measures, the nature and effectiveness of
which we will evaluate in a future public follow-up report.


Respectfully,
Joseph M. Ferguson
Inspector General
City of Chicago
 
Read the report here

Monday, April 4, 2011

PRIVATIZATION


Is Privatization a Bad Deal for Cities and States?
To save money, New York is turning the clock back on outsourcing by replacing private contractors with city workers.

Outsourcing the Wrong Jobs
Updated April 4, 2011, 10:00 AM

John "Jack" Donahue, a former assistant secretary of labor, is the faculty chairman of Harvard University's Master in Public Policy program and the co-author of "Collaborative Governance: Private Roles for Public Goals in Turbulent Times."

Some things government should do itself. Some things it should outsource. The rules for smart contracting aren’t mysterious. Tasks that are well-defined, easy to monitor and available from competitive suppliers — call them “commodity tasks” — are prime candidates for privatization. Tasks that are complex and mutable, lack clear benchmarks or are immune from competition — “custom tasks” — should be kept in-house.

Governments often perversely outsource jobs that are hard to monitor, yet keep "commodity" jobs like clerical work..
In a perfect world, governments would delegate all the commodity tasks and none of the custom tasks. In the real world, of course, we should expect some jobs to end up in the wrong box. But the pattern should trend to logical sorting, or at worst a random scatter.

In fact, we do lots worse. Much commodity work remains in government — half a million construction jobs, 600,000 food-service workers and more than 3.5 million routine administrative and clerical jobs. Meanwhile, many tasks are outsourced even though they’re hard to monitor, entangled with an agency's overall mission or sheltered from market pressure. Agencies hire private firms to build and run their information technology, manage their personnel systems and craft strategy.

Why this pattern? Blame generation-scale tectonic shifts that opened gaps between public and private work. In the private sector, but not in government, the ceiling has blown off the pay distribution, and the floor has dropped out. Less-skilled workers cling to the public jobs that still pay middle-class wages. More-skilled workers shun government for greener private pastures. The gap at the top starves government of custom-task talent, forcing ill-advised outsourcing. The gap at the bottom means that outsourcing commodity tasks meets ferocious resistance.

Campaigns are underway to drive compensation for less-skilled public workers down to private-sector levels. But narrowing the lower gap addresses just one cause of perverse privatization. And nobody is calling to fix the gap at the top.
LINK HERE