CITY HALL — Huge swaths of the South Side failed to meet national guidelines for emergency medical response times even half the time, according to a Chicago Fire Department audit released Friday by the Office of the Inspector General.
The audit found neighborhoods across the South Side where the fire department did not get personnel to the site of a medical emergency within five minutes, the national standard, on even half of all incidents last year.
Included in those neighborhoods were Calumet Heights, Chicago Lawn, Morgan Park, the Near South Side, Roseland, South Chicago, South Deering, Washington Heights, West Elsdon and West Lawn.
Yet worst of all were Pullman and Riverdale, both of which failed to see a five-minute response to medical emergencies even 20 percent of the time, or for one in five incidents. Pullman had an 18 percent compliance rate, Riverdale an 11 percent — or about one in nine incidents.
Pullman, Riverdale and Calumet Heights also had less than 50 percent compliance for getting fire trucks to a fire within the national standard of 320 seconds.
Guidelines set by the National Fire Protection Association are to meet those response times 90 percent of the time or more. Overall, the Fire Department got personnel to a fire within 5 minutes and 20 seconds 82 percent of the time, according to the audit, but managed only a 58 percent compliance rate on medical emergencies.
In a bit of a curiosity, Edison Park was the only North Side community with a compliance rate of under 50 percent for both fires and medical emergencies, at 49 percent for fire and 32 percent for medical. The Northwest Side neighborhood is known as a haven for firefighters and cops who live there to meet city residency requirements.
"It's hard for for me to respond, in all fairness," said Ald. Mary O'Connor (41st) at a mayoral news conference Monday in Edison Park. "I have not had an opportunity to look at the report."
Yet she acknowledged that the majority of the ward is made up of police and firefighter families, adding, "I have not ever had a concern that we have a low response. We've had a very responsive Fire Department."
The fire department said it would try to find ways to improve.
"The Chicago Fire Department worked collaboratively with the Inspector General’s Office and appreciates the recommendations made in this report," according to a formal statement issued by the department.
"We share the same goal of delivering emergency services efficiently, and regularly monitor our response time to ensure we respond quickly and safely to every incident in every part of the city. While we differ on the measure being used because it is not a common standard used by our fire department or other large fire departments, we will continue to search for ways to improve service to the residents of Chicago."