The Regional Emergency Dispatch (R.E.D.) Center provides Fire & Emergency Medical Services (EMS) dispatching to the Des Plaines, Morton Grove, Niles, Northbrook, Northfield, Park Ridge, Wheeling, Wilmette, and Winnetka/Kenilworth Fire Departments as well as the Deerfield-Bannockburn, Lincolnshire-Riverwoods, Long Grove, North Maine, and Prospect Heights Fire Protection Districts.
R.E.D. Center and its member agencies are an integrated, multi-jurisdictional organization that provides for the capability of closest station response regardless of jurisdictional boundaries through a coordinated central dispatch office. This translates into a faster attack and quicker application of extinguishing agent, and thus a more rapid return of apparatus to full service for additional alarms. It also gives the ability to provide a greater amount of needed initial resources on larger incidents.
Since its inception in 1977, R.E.D. Center has continued to excel in its ability to provide fast, effective EMS and fire response to emergencies. When R.E.D. Center started, it was located in the Dempster Street station of the Niles Fire Department. In 1981, it relocated to the basement of Glenview Fire Station 6 on Glenview Road in downtown Glenview. With the addition of 911 systems in 1991, R.E.D. Center became a secondary Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP). A primary PSAP is usually a police station or other location where a 911 call is initially received. Those calls requiring fire department or EMS responses are immediately transferred to the secondary PSAP. This transfer process happens in approximately four seconds.
Early in 1998, based on the increase in call volumes and the limited space available in Glenview, the Chiefs of the member departments began researching sites for a new facility. The current facility in Northbrook, Illinois, which began operations in December of 2001, dramatically increased the size, expandability, and functionality of the operation. The center contains six fully functional workstations, each using PC-based phone, radio, and Computer Aided Dispatch (C.A.D.) systems. This facility provides the staff with such amenities as a kitchen, locker room, and break room. This allows the center to be a self-sufficient and secure facility.
R.E.D. Center has a professional staff of 20 full-time telecommunicators and two alarm-monitoring technicians. Administrative staff consists of four personnel. Information Technology and Geographic Information System services are received by R.E.D. Center by outside vendors under contracts. The dispatch office is staffed twenty-four hours a day, with a minimum of four telecommunicators per shift. These professionals are also certified in Emergency Medical Dispatch (E.M.D.). This allows the telecommunicators to provide key medical assistance in an emergency, including pre-arrival instructions for CPR, choking, & childbirth. The Illinois Department of Public Health recognized R.E.D. Center as the first dispatch center certified to perform E.M.D. There is a detailed quality assurance process to monitor E.M.D performance, and R.E.D Center continues to excel in this area.
The high level of service provided to the fire departments and districts is due to the dedication to excellence of each of the R.E.D. Center staff members. Executive Director Christopher Lienhardt manages this staff of professionals. Director Lienhardt assumed the directorship in 2017 after serving twenty years as a member of the staff.
In addition to the responsibilities enumerated above, R.E.D. Center serves as the headquarters and divisional dispatching center for Division 3 of the Mutual Aid Box Alarm System (M.A.B.A.S.). Division 3 is made-up of seventeen fire departments in an area north of Chicago and immediately west of Lake Michigan. The purpose of M.A.B.A.S. is to provide the immediate assistance of equipment and trained personnel to any jurisdiction experiencing a large emergency or multiple simultaneous emergencies. Rapid responses under M.A.B.A.S. are accomplished using pre-arranged “box alarm” cards. The telecommunicators at R.E.D. Center will use these cards to dispatch the needed resources. All radio communications and additional requests are coordinated by R.E.D. Center.
The staff of the dispatch office is also responsible for the coordination of any suburban response into the City of Chicago for any incident north of 22nd Street, as well as any suburban response to an incident at O’Hare International Airport.
R.E.D. Center was recognized for excellence by the State of Illinois. Thus, R.E.D. Center was chosen to serve as the primary dispatch center for the coordination of any statewide responses of firefighting personnel and equipment, EMS personnel and equipment, water rescue response teams, hazardous materials response teams, and/or technical rescue teams. When mobilization of these resources is made pursuant to the direction of the Illinois Governor’s office, R.E.D. Center coordinates the responses of these units to any natural or man-made disaster and any incident of terrorism within the State of Illinois or in another state as requested through a federal state-to-state mutual aid system (as was the case when Illinois mobilized 250+ fire apparatus and nearly 1,000 firefighters to New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005).
Since 1977, R.E.D. Center has established itself as an efficient, cost-effective operation due to its sound management practices and its professional staff members, who are most dedicated to protecting their families, friends, and neighbors. The highly progressive Board of Directors and Joint Chiefs Authority remain committed to laying the groundwork for additional improvements that will insure R.E.D. Center’s continued progress and further success.