Fire Department Fails to Meet Standards for Response Times, Audit Finds
CITY HALL — A new audit of Chicago Fire Department response times found city crews did not "strictly" meet national standards, but softened criticism of the department in a report released Friday.
Inspector General Joseph Ferguson released an audit of Fire Department response times for 2012. It criticized the department for not clearly setting and stating its goals in the area, and for lumping together "turnout" and "travel time," categories separated in national guidelines.
The audit determined that firefighters arrived on the scene of a fire within 5 minutes and 20 seconds 82 percent of the time, slightly below the 90 percent standard set by the National Fire Protection Association. According to the audit, the department "argues that NFPA standards are useful as guidelines rather than stringent rules for fire departments."
The audit said Ferguson's office "does not have an opinion about the usefulness of NFPA standards. We simply encourage CFD to set and state its goals clearly and to regularly check its status in meeting those goals."
Ferguson said he had received assurances on that from department officials, adding, "I commend CFD’s commitment to clarifying its public accounts of standards and achievements in the future."
Response time on medical emergencies was not as close to the national standards as for fires. CFD personnel arrived on the scene within five minutes only 58 percent of the time, well below the same 90-percent standard. In fact, CFD did not meet that 90-percent threshold for responding to medical emergencies in any ward for 2012.
The Fire Department met the 90-percent goal for fire response times in seven wards: the 27th, the 28th, the 33rd, the 37th, the 40th, the 47th and the 49th. The best was the 33rd Ward with 94 percent, the worst the 9th with 64 percent.
The audit did not encourage firefighters and emergency personnel to drive faster, as that could increase danger, but encouraged the department to find ways to be more efficient in its response from receiving an emergency call to getting to the scene.