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Sycamore Fire Department sees increasing patient lift-assist calls

SYCAMORE – Not only have there been more calls to the fire department in the past fiscal year, but the fire department has to keep a closer eye on increasing patient lift-assist and medical alarm calls in the community.

The department took 2,281 calls during fiscal 2018, according to the annual report presented during the Sycamore City Council meeting Monday. That’s 93 more calls than in fiscal 2017.

Sycamore Fire Chief Pete Polarek said there has been an upward trend in calls overall since fiscal 2010, but he said there isn’t a clear cause for the increase. He said an increase in city residents, an increase in vehicle traffic, or an increase in visitors could have contributed.

“At this point, there isn’t any particular thing that you can point at,” Polarek said.

Polarek said the fire department has been addressing concerns of firefighters having a higher risk of cancer because of chemical exposure on calls. He said the department is making sure firefighters limit their exposure to those hazards, including having them wash their equipment, launder their clothes and shower after calls.

“The sooner we get the stuff off of them, it lowers their risk,” Polarek said.

Polarek said there has been a notable increase in the number of patient lift-assist calls in the past couple of years, including calls coming from alarm systems such as LifeAlert. There were 178 of those calls during fiscal 2018, compared with 164 the year before and 132 in fiscal 2016.

Polarek said this is the fourth year the department has been collecting patient lift-assist data with the older population living at home longer and living unassisted. He said this wasn’t much of a factor in the past because most people have called family or friends for that kind of help.

Now, Polarek said, there are a lot of older people who don’t have that kind of extended support system and the fire department is starting to see those kinds of calls more often.

“Probably 10 years ago, this wasn’t in our vocabulary,” Polarek said.

Polarek said his department is still able to address the increase in those calls with the staffing that they have, but staff will have to keep an eye on that statistic going forward

“It’s just another stresser that we’re dealing with,” Polarek said.

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