VIDEO: Fireground operations and tender (water tanker) shuttle operations on Carnoustie Lane near Palatine Road and Ela Road in Inverness [VIDEO CREDIT: Larry Shapiro].
Palatine Rural firefighter/paramedics and Inverness police responded about 4:50 PM Tuesday to a report of a house fire at 14 Carnoustie Lane Inverness, IL. Firefighters reported a well-involved house fire and called for mutual aid at about 4:55 p.m. Northwest Central Dispatch System 9-1-1 center, which dispatches fire and police for Inverness and orders mutual aid companies as division headquarters for MABAS Division 1, had a communication failure involving either a problem with their alerting tones or their radio. They likely had to scramble to request mutual aid sequentially by telephone. Apparently they were not able to use their standard equipment until 5:23 p.m. when they re-attempted to alert mutual aid fire departments. The failure caused a delay of their system that amounted to a 20-28 minute delay in properly alerting mutual aid fire companies. The house fire was eventually elevated to a third alarm.
There is no official word that the dispatch failure was a factor in the house fire raging out of control, but it certainly did not help for efficient firefighting at the incident. There is an old adage that fires double in size every minute or so. Mutual aid companies are also very important on hot days when fire departments need to rotate their crews to prevent heat exhaustion or even death from heat illnesses. In fact, two Palatine Rural firefighter/paramedics did suffer heat exhaustion and were transported to Northwest Community Hospital. The failure by Northwest Central Dispatch likely produced a very dangerous and damaging situation.
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The nearest fire station (Palatine Rural FPD) is only three-tenths of a mile from the house that was destroyed by fire.
There are reports that the roof of the home was fully-involved as 9-1-1 was called. Palatine Rural firefighters would have likely attempted to call for mutual aid as soon as they arrived on the scene, and may have even requested mutual aid while they were on the driveway apron of the fire station, where they likely would have seen the smoke header from the fire as soon as they exited the fire station doors.
Mutual aid Tenders (water tankers) were called to the scene to shuttle water, because the neighborhood does not have fire hydrants or has a shortage of fire hydrants in the area — a situation that already puts a home in peril. A delay in the response of mutual aid companies very likely delayed the extinguishment of the fire, and may have caused a hopeless situation.
Firefighters responded with fire engines from Barrington (MABAS Div. 4), Carpentersville (MABAS Div. 2), Elk Grove Village (MABAS Div. 1), Elk Grove Township (MABAS Div. 1), Hoffman Estates (MABAS Div. 1), Lake Zurich (MABAS Div. 4), Mount Prospect (MABAS Div. 4), Palatine (MABAS Div. 1), Palatine Rural (MABAS Div. 1), Rolling Meadows (MABAS Div. 1), Roselle (MABAS Div. 12), and Streamwood (MABAS Div. 1). Firefighters responded with ladder truck or towers from Buffalo Grove (MABAS Div. 4), Des Plaines (MABAS Div. 1), Hoffman Estates (MABAS Div. 1), and Wheeling (MABAS Div. 1). Firefighters with tenders (water tanker trucks) responded from Cary (MABAS Div. 5), Crystal Lake (MABAS Div. 5), Fox River Grove (MABAS Div. 5), Prospect Heights (MABAS Div. 3), Roselle (MABAS Div. 12), Rutland-Dundee (MABAS Div. 2) and Wauconda (MABAS Div. 4). Firefighter/paramedics responded with rescue ambulances from Arlington Heights (MABAS Div. 1), Bartlett (MABAS Div. 12), Crystal Lake (MABAS Div. 5), East Dundee (MABAS Div. 2), Lincolnshire-Riverwoods (MABAS Div. 4), and Palatine (MABAS Div. 1). Firefighters responded with a rescue squad from Northbrook (MABAS Div. 3).
Elk Grove Village (MABAS Div. 1) also sent a command van. Fire chiefs from Barrington, Long Grove and Mount Prospect also responded.
Many of the firefighters in the above-mentioned MABAS divisions should have been alerted simultaneously on the first extra alarm called, but the failure of the Northwest Central Dispatch System MABAS/IFERN radio or alerting tones prevented this from happening.
Northwest Central Dispatch has been plagued with radio problems and computer aided dispatch problems since they switched to a new computer aided dispatch system in April 2012. The system was under scrutiny in July 2012 when Palatine Fire Department had a delay of fifteen minutes for a heart attack medical call on July 8, 2012 because of a failure of the Northwest Central Dispatch computer aided dispatch system. The system wasn’t dispatching calls because it wasn’t handing off calls from the call taker to the dispatcher. Since then other delays were discovered. Even up until June 4, 2013, a large percentage of radio communications between firefighters and dispatchers and police officers and dispatchers on Northwest Central Dispatch channels was utilized by time and energy correcting computer aided dispatch errors and confirming uncertain information from the computer terminals, or reporting that the computer terminals had failed altogether.
Selected audio from Northwest Central Dispatch System CAD failures reported by police officers and firefighters over a four-month period earlier this year.
Northwest Central Dispatch System dispatchers voted no confidence in their management because of the failures in the system almost one year ago on Thursday, July 19, 2012.
The Executive Committee responded to the dispatchers saying they had confidence in the management of Northwest Central Disptach. While dispatchers claimed the broken system was putting extreme stress on their personal operations, bringing some of them to tears.
On June 5, 2013 Northwest Central Dispatch System switched to an encrypted radio system using TDMA technology resulting in the prohibition of police and fire scanners monitoring of Northwest Central’s public safety channels. The technology prevents citizens from overseeing the performance of their police and firefighters and the 9-1-1 center.
There has also been a report that the console radios with the new system placed in service on June 5, 2013 failed at least once with dispatchers having to resort to portable radios to dispatch calls. The new system has two extra layers of technology compared to the old system — TDMA and encryption. The extra layers of technology are just two more layers of something that can fail.
The mutual aid frequency dispatch that failed is not directly part of the new secret radio technology that Northwest Central Dispatch System uses. The MABAS (MUTUAL AID BOX ALARM SYSTEM) uses an IFERN (Intersystem Emergency Radio Network) frequency that all fire departments in the area share, and a frequency that can be monitored by the news media and citizens.
It is unknown if Northwest Central Dispatch System also had trouble with their local secret radio talk group/frequencies (activated June 5, 2013) since their communications cannot be monitored by the media or the public. Although the fire department talkgroups are not encrypted, the TDMA technology is not receivable by any currently manufactured public safety scanner.
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