Orland Fire Protection District Chief Michael Schofield talks about new technology saving lives at a news conference Jan. 31 in Hazel Crest. (Photo by Jeff Vorva)

Orland Fire Protection District Chief Michael Schofield talks about new technology saving lives at a news conference Jan. 31 in Hazel Crest. (Photo by Jeff Vorva)

Orland Fire heads up new system that will be a ‘lifesaver’

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By Jeff Vorva

Ask any firefighter and they will say that seconds count when it comes to responding to an emergency.

So, when minutes can be shaved off of response times, that’s a reason to be overjoyed.

Orland Fire Protection District Chief Michael Schofield had a big smile on his face Jan. 31 at the Hazel Crest Fire Department. He joined other chiefs and officials for a news conference to announce new technology that will be implemented by south suburban fire departments that will improve emergency response times and emergency care for Southland residents, including Orland Park and those residents in the Palos Fire Protection District.

Orland Fire is heading up the program and Schofield can’t wait to get it started.

“A couple of years ago, I was looking into how we could improve on our response time,” he said. “The delays were minutes. When we had fires and brought in other agencies, we had to make a phone call.

“I said, ‘This is ridiculous.’ With today’s technology, we are wasting time calling other dispatch centers. We found this program and in Washington, D.C., it’s been a great success. This will change fire service forever, moving us ahead in saving lives.”

Through a $600,000 state grant awarded by Sen. Michael Hastings, south suburban fire departments will soon begin implementing new technology called CentralSquare Unify that will sync dispatch services among fire protection districts that sign up for the program.

The new technology will provide instant alerts to south suburban fire protection districts when additional assistance is needed to respond to emergencies and cut response times down by several minutes.

Hastings called it a “life-changing and a lifesaving” program.

“Today’s a great day for the Southland and it’s a great day for the state of Illinois,” Hastings said. “For the first time in the history of fire service, we’re going to implement a program that will have real-time information as to where our fire assets are.

“If you have a fire, it generally requires another fire department to come and help and assist. The problem is that a lot of our fire organizations don’t have the capability to see real time and where all the fire assets are.”

Aside from Orland and the Palos area, communities signed up for this service are Blue Island, Calumet City, Chicago Heights, Country Club Hills, Garden Homes Fire Protection District, Glenwood, Hazel Crest, Homewood, Lemont, Matteson, Merrionette Park, Oak Forest, Park Forest, Richton Park, Riverdale, South Holland, Thornton, and Tinley Park.

The goal is to expand the technology to as many south suburban fire protection districts as possible to ensure seamless and instant communication capabilities and improve emergency response times.

“The installation of this new technology will help our fire and rescue departments reduce valuable emergency response times, helping to save countless lives throughout the Southland,” Hazel Crest Mayor Vernard Alsberry said. “I would like to thank Senator Michael Hastings and his colleagues in the state legislature for this continue commitment to improving public safety for our Southland residents.”

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