Sycamore Fire Department reports emergency calls up 23% in past year

Sycamore Fire Chief Pete Polarek talks about the fire department's fiscal year 2021 annual report during a City Council meeting Monday, July 19, 2021.

SYCAMORE – Calls for service from the Sycamore Fire Department increased by 23% over the past year, according to a recently published annual report.

Sycamore Fire Chief Pete Polarek gave the department’s annual report during Monday’s Sycamore City Council meeting and said the call increases were primarily reported among those seeking emergency medical aid.

Polarek reported data collected by the department encompassed calls made from May 1, 2021 to April 30, 2022. The city of Sycamore’s fiscal year runs midyear to midyear.

“As you see early on, we had a significant increase in request for service from the year prior,” Polarek said. “It was up 23% about 544 calls, pretty big amount.”

The report states that the department’s Fiscal 2021 also is considered its “COVID-19 year” since the fiscal year began mid-2020, during the height of the first wave of the pandemic. That year also saw a drop in emergency activity compared to Fiscal 2020, which began mid-2019, according to the report. From FY2020 to FY22, overall calls for service increased 18%.

“Obviously emergency medical services is a big part of our business and it’s a big part of the growth here in activity,” Polarek said. “It’s about 86% of what we do in the fire department.”

EMS responses jumped 27.9%, according to the report, recording about 548 more calls, Polarek said.

As part of its growing emergency medical services activity, the department continued to see growth in residents calling 911 for medical services. That’s a trend felt throughout the emergency response industry, as reported in neighboring city DeKalb over the past year also. Over the past year, the DeKalb Fire Department reported a record-high number of calls for service, most calls falling into the emergency medical response category.

“As I’ve harped on over the last few years, patient lift assist is a growing concern and it’s a growing part of our business,” Polarek said. “It increased by 134 from the previous year.”

Polark said the department averages about one lift assist call per day, sometimes more.

“In the last seven years, our patient lift assist, medical alarms have tripled,” he said.

Polarek also said the Sycamore Fire Department reported daily instances over the past year where both fire stations responded to calls at the same time.

“Basically, both fire stations are empty for a period of time until either off-duty people come back to assist or we have to employe our neighbors to help us,” Polarek said.

“Every day we are having at least one occasion where both stations are empty at the same time,” Polarek said. “We are doing about eight calls a day on the average. During that period of time, that 24-hour block, about eight [hours], one vehicle is out for a period and then at some period both vehicles are out. So it’s significant.”

The Sycamore Fire Department also was the recipient of grants over the past year, Polarek said, which supported purchases for different vehicles and equipment replacement. The department also received a training mannequin through a donation from the Sycamore Lions Club to train staff on when a patient is struggling with airway flow.

“We’re very fortunate to have the community support that way,” he said.

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