Chief outlines Squad's progress during presentation to the Village of Antioch
In a presentation to the Village of Antioch on Monday, November 5, Chief Brian DeKind of the Antioch Rescue Squad provided an update on the Squad's progress. From implementation of new policies to collaboration with community organizations, the theme of DeKind's presentation was consistent - positive change is underway at the Antioch Rescue Squad.
Under the leadership of Chief DeKind, who was recently appointed to the position following the retirement of former Chief Wayne Sobczak, the Antioch Rescue Squad has been collaborating with Village officials and the Antioch Fire Department to develop a plan for working together that will best serve the residents of Antioch. As part of the plan, the Antioch Rescue Squad has been in regular discussions with members of the Village of Antioch. Village Administrator Jim Keim has participated in several ride alongs with the Squad and will continue to do so. Chief DeKind has also held meetings with Antioch Fire Department Chief John Nixon regarding engine response and joint training opportunities.
The Antioch Rescue Squad is currently operating through a contractual agreement with the Village of Antioch, in which the Squad is licensed to provide emergency medical and rescue services to the residents of the Antioch community. The contract was established in August as a result of findings outlined in a report by the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) regarding the Squad's conduct. Since the report was issued, the Antioch Rescue Squad has worked tirelessly to correct the issues by implementing several new policies regarding procedures and member accountability. The Squad has been in constant communication with the IDPH and submitted a formal plan of correction on November 1, which is currently being reviewed by the IDPH.
"It has always been the mission of the Antioch Rescue Squad to provide our community members with the highest-quality emergency medical care," said Chief DeKind. "We recognize that changes needed to be made and we have taken a proactive approach to correcting those issues. We are continuing our efforts to revamp outdated policies, implement new and effective procedures, foster open communication and establish a system of accountability. As a Squad, we are moving forward and we remain fully committed to serving the community of Antioch with the utmost care and professionalism."
Many of the positive changes implemented by DeKind involve the Squad's operational competencies. A members-only website has been created to enhance communication between Squad members. Text-messaging programs are also being implemented to provide Squad members with an additional avenue for receiving notification and responding to calls. Identification cards are being printed and must be displayed by Squad members not in uniform when responding to a call. An update to the Squad's current Duty Chief program is also being implemented and calls for three, non-member Field Supervisors to provide 24/7 supervision at the station. Interviews are currently underway and the positions require applicants to be skilled paramedics with leadership and supervisory experience.
The Squad has also contracted McGrath Consulting, a third-party consulting firm to review current policies and provide recommendations for a new, comprehensive members handbook, which will include revised policies addressing discipline, drug/alcohol use and screenings. The consulting firm will also work with the Antioch Rescue Squad to provide ethics and harassment training to members, training on the new member handbook and HR training for management personnel.
The Squad is also in the process of updating its public website to provide community members with more frequent updates and timely information on the Squad. "Our goal is to provide greater transparency," stated DeKind. "We understand that we still have hurdles to jump on our path to restoring the reputation of our Squad. As we face this challenge head on, it is important to remember that our dedicated volunteers are members of this community too. We take our job very seriously and realize that every time we get a call, we are doing more than helping others, we are serving our neighbors and friends."
In its quest to move forward, the Antioch Rescue Squad has also had to overcome the recent charge against its former treasurer John Edgell, who was accused of stealing money from the Squad. It was the Squad that uncovered the theft and reported Edgell's alleged crime to the police. The Squad continues to cooperate fully with police and has turned over all the required financial records to investigators. In spite of the theft, the Squad remains financially solvent and has taken the necessary steps with its bank to ensure that this does not happen again.
Elections for the Squad's Board of Directors will be held in December. The newly-structured Board, to be elected by the Squad's entire membership, will consist of seven individuals, including the chief, deputy chief and two assistant chiefs. Three individuals, completely independent of the Squad, will fill the Board positions of president, treasurer and secretary. These will be well-respected members of the community with extensive leadership, business and/or medical experience. The first item on the agenda for the new Board will be to adopt additional changes to the bylaws, including the addition of a fourth independent director to create equal leadership between members and non-members. Additionally, the Board will decide on a change calling for the president, an independent individual, to be assigned the deciding vote in the case of a tie.
About the Antioch Rescue Squad:
The Antioch Rescue Squad serves as the sole provider of 911 ambulance service to the community of Antioch, Ill. Since 1940, the organization has derived its operating budget from donations and memorials and continues to purchase all of its own equipment, vehicles and supplies. Volunteers of the Antioch Rescue Squad are committed to providing superior emergency medical services 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.