Trustee Training Quicktips 101


If you’re reading this, you’re probably a trustee of an Illinois fire protection district, or interested in becoming one. If so, good, and thanks for your willingness to serve. Once upon a time, I was also a trustee of an Illinois fire protection district. I’m an attorney, so my legal experience was helpful background to have when I became a fire district trustee.

But that legal experience didn’t, by itself, prepare me to be a trustee. That legal experience really just meant that I was familiar with some of the concepts, and I knew where to look for some of the answers. My law school, good as it was, didn’t teach any courses about being a government official. So, when I became a trustee, I really knew very little about what the job entailed, and what the responsibilities were. Plus, times are different now — the time when I served as a trustee was many years ago, and the job of being a trustee has gotten a lot more complex since that time.

Which is why I decided to write this web material, which I’m calling “Trustee Quicktips”. Before I was a trustee, or even a law student, I was a Boy Scout. In those days, to be a Boy Scout, you had to learn “basic first aid”. And it was REALLY BASIC first aid. It didn’t make someone an expert in all things medical; after passing the basic first aid class, a person couldn’t do brain surgery, or do anything close to it. The goal of the first aid class was simple; teach young boys how to do the very basic things that need to be done to keep someone as safe as possible until the real help arrives.

That’s how I see the information that you’re reading now. “Quicktips” are the really basic stuff. It’s basic information for the new trustee, to give that new trustee some idea about the very basic information that they need before the real help can come. Don’t expect the information here to do more than provide basic information, information that you should supplement as soon as possible. Until that later help comes, however, hopefully this information will be a helpful starting place. You should be able to read all of it in about an hour or so – two hours tops! So, read on, and good luck! Your fire department and your community are counting on you!


So, you’re either now a trustee of a fire protection district, or someone has suggested that you become one. Maybe becoming a trustee is an idea that you yourself have – and you want to know what the job involves. In any event, if the last few sentences you read describe you, then this information is for you.

So, what exactly, is a trustee? A trustee is a government official responsible for the administration of an Illinois fire protection district. Some trustees are elected, some trustees are appointed. Illinois laws (and these “Quicktips” are limited to persons serving in Illinois) determine what method of choosing trustees apply to your fire protection district. And the “your” in that last sentence is important, because to be a trustee of a fire protection district, a person must live within the boundaries of the fire district, and be a registered voter. There aren’t many other qualifications to get the job. But, hopefully, after getting the job, a person moves on to learn how to do the job well.

Maybe the most important thing for a trustee to know is that a trustee generally doesn’t have any power to act individually. Trustees are members of a group, a “Board of Trustees”. A trustee’s power comes from the power of the entire Board of Trustees, and boards generally act as a group, “in meeting assembled”.

What do boards of trustees do? Trustees manage the money of the fire district, appoint a fire chief and other firefighters, and see that their community is as safe as possible from fires and other tragedies. Often, the fire protection district provides some form of emergency medical services, as well as responding to vehicle accidents, chemical spills, incidents on lakes and rivers, and similar emergencies within the fire district. Most fire departments also have agreements with other fire departments in their geographic area to assist these other fire departments if an incident occurs that is beyond the resources of the original fire department to control (something called “mutual aid”).

These are important responsibilities. Because of the importance of these responsibilities, a trustee can’t have any loyalty to another person or another job that might conflict with the responsibilities to the fire protection district. So, a trustee must always be free of any “conflict of interest” that might interfere with the trustee’s responsibility, in all circumstances, to put the interests of the fire district first.

Being a trustee isn’t a lifetime appointment. Trustees serve for a definite term of office. The length of the term depends on the manner in which the trustee is chosen.

All the trustees, together, are responsible for the work of the Board of Trustees. But the trustees generally divide up some of the work by choosing officers for the board: typically a president, a secretary, and a treasurer.


Laws create fire protection districts, and laws govern how a fire protection district – and its trustees — must operate. As a result, laws from all levels of government place demands on what fire districts can and cannot do. So, it’s important for a trustee to know a little bit about these laws.

  1. The first and most important law that applies to fire districts is the United States Constitution. Now that’s likely not the first law that a trustee might think applies to a fire protection district. However, because it’s the most important law in our nation, the Constitution does apply to what trustees can and cannot do. For example, the Constitution prevents fire districts from discriminating against someone because of the person’s race or religious beliefs.
  2. Federal laws passed by Congress in Washington, D.C. also regulate what trustees can do. For example, if a fire district pays compensation in any form to its firefighters, there will be federal income tax laws that will need to be followed.
  3. Various Illinois laws created by the state legislature in Springfield will need to be followed. For example, the Illinois “Freedom of Information Act” describes how a fire district must respond if someone requests information about the operation of the fire protection district. Among the most important and comprehensive of the laws that fire districts must follow are those contained in the Illinois “Fire Protection District Act”, found at 70 ILCS 705.
  4. And even actions by local officials can impact the operation of the fire district. Local governments can create TIFs (tax increment financing districts) that will determine the tax monies that will come to the fire department from property located within the boundaries of a TIF.
  5. And there are even more legal requirements. Various federal and state administrative agencies like the “Occupational Safety and Health Administration” (“OSHA”) and the Illinois Department of Labor (“IDOL”) will have a say in what happens in the firehouse.

So, trustees must be familiar with these laws, and what they require of fire districts. Many of these laws contain penalties for their violation, so it is important that applicable laws be understood and followed.

And if that’s not enough, there are also some private organizations, like the National Fire Protection Association (“NFPA”) that give direction to the fire department about fire department operations.



Yes, trustees have to follow the law – no real surprise there! But boards of trustees also have the ability and the responsibility to also create laws (well, not really laws, but regulations) that apply to themselves, to their firefighters, and to persons living within their districts.

  1. What kinds of rules would a board of trustees adopt to govern themselves? There are potentially very many. For example, as a group, trustees need to have rules that describe how they will act towards themselves and others. “Bylaws” set out the operating rules for how the board will govern itself, and the roles that different trustees will play (president, secretary, treasurer). A purchasing/procurement policy will explain how trustees go about securing items that are needed for the operation of the fire department. A travel and reimbursement policy will outline the steps that someone associated with the district will take if they travel on fire district business, and seek reimbursement for those expenses. Citizens may want to attend trustee meetings, and raise issues of concern. A “public comment policy” will outline the process to be followed.

    Lots of other examples exist as well.
  2. What kinds of rules would a board of trustees adopt to govern firefighters? Again, there are potentially very many. “Smart phones” and Facebook are everywhere these days, but not everything a firefighter sees or hears should be shared with others. So, a “social media policy”, telling firefighters what they can and cannot share on social media, is probably a must. Marijuana is legal in Illinois now, so trustees should address whether a firefighter can use cannabis during off-duty hours (the statute doesn’t allow recreational use on duty). Volunteer firefighters can use “blue lights” on private vehicles when responding to emergencies, but trustees should provide guidance on when a volunteer firefighter will receive permission from the fire department to install a blue light, and circumstances under which it can be used. Lots of other examples exist.
  3. What kinds of rules would a board of trustees adopt to govern citizens? While the number of such rules is likely less than those that govern the Board of Trustees and firefighters, there are still circumstances where trustees can pass rules that govern the general public. Finances are always tight, so a fire district might choose to recoup some of its costs by imposing a charge on non-residents for services that the fire department provides to non-residents when responding to a call for assistance to a non-resident. There may be times when the fire district has need to ban open burning within its district. For these, and other reasons, the Board of Trustees may choose to adopt rules that govern or restrict activities of others. Other examples also exist.


The most obvious way that trustees fulfill their job as trustee is by participating in meetings of the “Board of Trustees”. But these meetings are unlike other meetings that a trustee might attend, such as those of a card club, a church group, a sports league, or a civic organization like Kiwanis.

The purpose of a meeting of a Board of Trustees is to do public business. And because it’s public business, there are some very specific rules that govern these meetings. The most important of these rules is the Illinois “Open Meetings Act” (5 ILCS 120). The “Open Meetings Act” describes what must happen before, during, and after a meeting of the Board of Trustees, so that the meeting can be conducted legally.

Every trustee needs to be familiar with the “Open Meetings Act”. In fact, that knowledge is so important that Illinois law requires that every trustee attend an electronic on-line training session that provides an orientation to this law (5 ILCS 120/1.05). In addition to this Illinois state law (the “Open Meetings Act”), it is also good for a Board of Trustees to have its own set of operating guidelines, to cover those parts of meeting requirements that aren’t covered by the “Open Meetings Act”.

So what does the “Open Meetings Act” say should happen before, during, and after a “public meeting”?

  1. Before the meeting, an agenda must be prepared and posted, to let everyone — not just the trustees — know what will happen at the meeting. And the public must be informed of the date, time, and place of the meeting, so members of the public can decide if they want to attend the meeting.
  2. During the meeting, the Board conducts the meeting, and follows the previously-announced agenda for the meeting. The Board can only act on a matter if it is on the agenda. Notes are kept during the meeting, so that there will later be a record of what happened at the meeting. And members of the public must be allowed to speak at the meeting.
  3. After the meeting, whatever action was agreed to at the meeting takes place. And the notes that were kept during the meeting are turned into minutes for the meeting, so that they can be reviewed for accuracy and approved by the trustees at a later meeting of the Board of Trustees.

    Meetings of the Board of Trustees are public meeting, because they are used to conduct the public’s business. The public notice that must be posted in advance of the meeting is necessary because the general public has a right to know when its business is being conducted. Because of this, if there are three trustees on the Board of Trustees, no trustee can have any “contemporaneous interactive communication” with another trustee about fire district business outside of a publicly announced meeting. If there are more than three members of the board, the rules about what kinds of communication trustees can have between publicly-announced meetings are somewhat different.

    There are generally three types of meetings of a Board of Trustees: regular meetings, special meetings, and emergency meetings. Different kinds of notice are required for each of these three types of meetings. Sometimes a meeting will be adjourned, and continued to a later date.

    Trustees must transact most of the fire district business in “open” sessions. However, Illinois law allows some types of business to be conducted in “closed” or “executive” session (5 ILCS 120/2).


Like any family, business or other organization, a fire protection district needs money to operate. The “money” responsibilities of a trustee generally fall into three categories: the responsibility to raise the money, the responsibility to spend the money wisely, and the responsibility to report to others about the money.

  1. The responsibility to raise the money: The fire district and the fire department can’t operate without money in the bank. Most of the money that a fire district uses to operate comes from taxes on the value of real estate located within the geographic boundaries of the fire protection district. In order to raise the money from real estate taxes, generally the trustees must prepare and adopt two different documents: a budget/appropriation ordinance, and a tax levy ordinance. Prior to adoption of these ordinances, the Board of Trustees must provide specific types of notice to the public.

    The budget/appropriation ordinance tells the public how much money the fire district will need to operate during its “fiscal” year, and what the money will be used for. The district’s fiscal year can be the same as a calendar year (January 1 through December 31), or the district can adopt its own twelve-month “fiscal”/financial year (for example, July 1 of one year through June 30 of the following calendar year) This budget/appropriation document is important for a number of reasons. One of the most important of these reasons is that, if the Board hasn’t identified and appropriated money for a certain purpose, the board doesn’t have the legal power to spend the money for that purpose, even if the board has money in the bank that would cover this expense.

    The tax levy ordinance is a direction to the county officials to impose the tax on real estate. This tax levy ordinance must be filed with the county(ies) no later than the last Tuesday in the calendar year.
  2. The responsibility to spend the money wisely: Once money has been budgeted/appropriated and received from the county as a result of the tax levy ordinance, the money must be spent wisely. Among other things, this requires that, generally, if the trustees are going to spend more than $20,000.00 to purchase something, the trustees will need to solicit public bids for the purchase, and follow a very specific procedure to accept a winning bid. An additional requirement to spend wisely is the requirement that a trustee can’t have a direct or indirect financial interest in what is being purchased.
  3. The responsibility to report to others about the money: Because the money that trustees spend originally belonged to the public, the trustees must report to the public (and other governmental agencies) about this money. There are generally three documents that the Board of Trustees must prepare to make this report.
    1. Each fire protection district in Illinois must file with the State of Illinois Comptroller an “Annual Financial Report” (AFR). This report is filed electronically within 180 days of the end of the district’s fiscal (financial) year.
    2. Each fire protection district in Illinois must file with their county clerk(s) a paper copy of the “Annual Financial Report” (AFR) described above. This report must also be filed within 180 days of the end of the district’s fiscal (financial) year.
    3. Each fire protection district in Illinois must also prepare a separate document, a “Statement of Receipts and Disbursements”. This statement is also filed with the county clerk(s). In addition, unless the fire district has an audit performed by a Certified Public Accountant, the statement must also be published in a newspaper. Illinois statutes describe what this “Statement of Receipts and Disbursements” needs to contain.
    4. In some cases, an audit of the district’s finances by a CPA must also be performed.
      And, unfortunately, any discussion of public funds should also contain a recommendation that trustees put adequate safeguards in place to protect fire district funds from theft, misappropriation, and unauthorized expenditures. While we want to believe that everyone who has access to fire district funds is honest, history, unfortunately, shows that this is not always the case. Multiple examples exist from around the state of individuals stealing from fire districts. An important responsibility of each trustee is to safeguard monies (and other assets) within the fire district’s control.


A fire district can’t fight fires without people. So, the Board of Trustees will typically need to recruit and appoint a fire chief, other command personnel, and firefighters. (There are a limited number of districts – such as “paper” districts — that don’t have their own personnel. Districts of this type are ignored in this discussion). Some fire districts are staffed by paid, career, full-time firefighters. There are special rules in the Illinois Fire Protection District Act (70 ILCS 705) that govern the selection and treatment of these “career” firefighters.

Some fire protection districts are staffed entirely by volunteer firefighters. In addition, some fire districts are staffed by different combinations of the firefighters described above, including POC (paid on call) firefighters. Regardless of the type of firefighter personnel who staff the fire district, there should be clear guidelines in place regarding the recruitment, selection, promotion, discipline, and termination of personnel.

All districts should use a written application process for the selection of its firefighters, and perform such background checks and other evaluations as are necessary to help insure that only qualified applicants become members of the fire department.

Firefighting is a dangerous occupation. As a result, the trustees have an obligation to insure that those persons on the department are at all times physically fit for the demands of the job. Some of the dangers of firefighting are obvious, such as entering a building engulfed in flames. Some dangers are less obvious, such as the exposure to carcinogens, and mental health issues that can result from responding to dangerous crisis situations.

Firefighting is even more dangerous if personnel are not adequately trained to perform the job. This means that trustees must make certain that the fire department provides regular, quality training suited to the hazards that its firefighters will face. Some of this training can be provided in-house. Some of it can be provided by neighboring fire departments. In addition, various other organizations exist that provide training throughout the state, such as the Illinois Fire Service Institute, which is part of the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana.


As discussed in another “Quicktip”, firefighting is a dangerous occupation. As a result, trustees have a responsibility to do everything reasonably possible, within practical and budgetary constraints, to keep fire department personnel safe. Some of these safety issues are discussed elsewhere in these materials. However, a particular responsibility of the trustees is to make certain that the fire department complies with the “Occupational Safety and Health Administration” requirements on fire departments enforced by the Illinois Department of Labor. Some of these requirements relate to documents that the fire department must create and maintain. Some of the requirements relate to actions that the fire department must take to create a safe workplace and incorporate safe practices into a dangerous occupation. Among the “action” requirements are the following:

  1. If fire department personnel are potentially exposed to blood or other bodily fluids, the fire department must have a written “Bloodborne Pathogens Program”, annual training for personnel, and take action regarding Hepatitis B vaccinations.
  2. For firefighters using “Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus”, a written respiratory protection program must be implemented and followed, which will include annual training, medical evaluations, fit-testing of respirators, and breathing air that meets OSHA standards.
  3. A firehouse environment that is generally free of hazards.


Everyone knows that firefighting is a dangerous occupation, performed under great stress and fast-changing circumstances. Because of this, even with the best of intentions, and with trained personnel and excellent equipment, things can sometimes go wrong. Obviously, the best defense to a liability claim is to operate in such a manner that prevents mistakes from being made. But, we can never know when mistakes might happen. If something goes wrong, then an injured party may seek compensation for the damage to person or to property that results.

The good news for trustees is that the laws are generally written in such a way as to protect the firefighters and the fire protection district from claims for wrongdoing. Usually, a small error will not result in liability for the fire department. But, especially if the fire district and its personnel have acted in a “willful and wanton” manner, a lawsuit may be filed.

Because of this, it will be important for the trustees to secure appropriate insurance coverage to protect the fire protection district, the trustees themselves, and the fire district’s firefighters. The exact type of insurance that the trustees should purchase will depend on the types of operations that the fire district is engaged in. The insurance needs of a district that operates an emergency ambulance service will be different, for example, from a district that never responds to EMS calls. The trustees should regularly review and evaluate the insurance that is in place, to make certain that the district has appropriate coverage, and coverage in amounts that represent a realistic assessment of the potential exposure that the fire district has as a result of its operations. As personnel and equipment change, these changes should be reflected in the records of the insurance company.


The equipment demands of the first fire departments in the United States, those formed in 1736 when Benjamin Franklin was in his prime, were few. Much of the time, they relied on buckets being available in the vicinity of a fire so that the firefighters could form “bucket brigades” to douse the flames. But as society has grown and changed, so have the demands of the contemporary fire service. It is a part of the responsibility of a trustee to see that the firefighters in his/her fire department have the equipment resources required to adequately perform their duties. And this can’t be a “once and forget it” responsibility. Equipment wears out, and equipment capabilities are constantly being upgraded. Trustees need to budget for the present and future needs of their department.

And trustees need to be certain that the equipment is “fit” for the purpose and duty for which it will be used. As research has moved forward, and technology has advanced, various professional standards have been developed to insure that equipment purchased for fire department use is up to the task. While there are also other standards and specifications that may apply, those standards of the National Fire Protection Association (“NFPA”) are the ones that most commonly apply to equipment used in the fire service in the United States.

Sometimes, a fire department (especially small and volunteer departments) will buy used equipment that has previously been in service with another department. When equipment is purchased new by the Board of Trustees, it will be important to review the warranty provisions that apply to that equipment.


“Is That All There Is?” Well, the short answer is “No”.

If you’ve read these ten “Quicktips” from the very beginning, I hope that they proved helpful to you. I said at the outset that they were intended to be only the first word about information that you need to knowledgably and conscientiously serve as a trustee of a fire protection district in Illinois. These “Quicktips” are no more the last word on the subject than a Boy Scout “first aid merit badge” is the pinnacle of achievement for medical knowledge.

So, if this isn’t the last word on the topic, what is? Well, unfortunately, there isn’t any “last word”. As long as the legislatures continue to meet in Washington, D.C. and Springfield, and as long as judges continue to interpret laws, the last word remains unwritten. So, you will never be done learning all that you need to know to competently serve your community as a fire protection district trustee.

But, there are additional places where you can go for help. What’s listed in this “Quicktip” isn’t an exhaustive list, but here are some additional sources of reliable information that you can use, as you go about the never-ending task of acquiring the knowledge that you need to competently serve your fire department and your community.

  1. The Illinois Association of Fire Protection Districts, 1201 S. Sixth Street, Springfield, Illinois 62703 (217) 525.6620
  2. The Illinois Fire Service Institute, 11 Gerty Drive, Champaign, Illinois 61820 (217) 333-3800 and (800) 437-5819
  3. The National Fire Protection Association, 1 Batterymarch Park, Quincy, Massachusetts 02169-7471 (800) 344-3555
  4. The Office of the State Fire Marshal, 1035 Adlai Stevenson Drive, Springfield, IL 62703 (217) 785-0969
  5. The Illinois Fire Chiefs Association, PO Box 7, Skokie IL 60076-0007 847-966-0732 800-662-0732


The coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic is a fast-moving disease that is a challenge to everyone world-wide. However, it is especially challenging to firefighters and other first responders. As an example of how quickly the virus spreads, on March 8, 2020, there were four confirmed cases of the coronavirus in Illinois. One week later, that number had risen to sixty-four.

In Kirkland, Washington, the local fire department was the initial responder to the first reported case of coronavirus in the United States. That fire department response resulted in more than two dozen Kirkland firefighters being placed in quarantine. Obviously, the possible infection of a firefighter places the health and safety of that firefighter at risk, but also the health and safety of the firefighter’s family, crew members, and other contacts. And infection has a significant ripple effect, since it can decrease fire department staff available to respond to future fire and EMS emergencies.

While I am neither a medical doctor nor do I play one on TV, I suggest that it is of crucial importance that leaders in the fire service take prompt and drastic action regarding the further spread of this disease. As a way to start that response, following are eight points that I believe should guide the fire service in its response:

1. The coronavirus will spread. We don’t know where it will spread: maybe to your community, or maybe your community will be spared. But it will spread, and it threatens to overwhelm our ability to respond to the disease and to contain it.

2. The virus can spread in different ways, including through “community transmission”. This phrase is a fancy way of saying that we don’t know how or why it got where it did, but it did get there.

“Community transmission” means that a person who has the virus is not known to have had contact with someone known to be infected with the virus, or known to have traveled to places where coronavirus is circulating (like China or Italy).

3. Leaders in the fire service need to “model” a response that all of society needs to follow: Practice “social distancing” and avoid unnecessary contact with others, especially in large gatherings. Follow the directives of federal, state, and local leaders in government and public health. Do those “simple” things like washing your hands and stifling a cough or sneeze by use of a tissue or elbow. Oh, and avoid close contact with others, like hand-shakes and hugs.

4. Like “Cubs fever”, some cases will be mild, and some cases can be serious. Not every case will require hospitalization or be fatal, but some will.

5. Fire departments need to be prepared to respond to possible cases of coronavirus infection, since we don’t know where it will next appear or when.

6. Our response to the possible threat needs to be balanced. Our response should be neither hysterical nor indifferent. Neither hysteria nor indifference is appropriate on the fire ground or in any other emergency, and it shouldn’t be here.

7. We need to prepare. Research “best practices” from sources like JEMS Magazine, the International Association of Firefighters, the “Center for Disease Control, and other sources. Share this information with your fire department personnel, discuss it with command, supplement it with other reliable information, and train as appropriate. Consult with your local resource hospital, and secure appropriate supplies and equipment.

8. We’re fire departments – this is what we do, prepare for and respond to emergencies that endanger others. It’s the same thing here. There’s no need for panic. Take prudent steps to prepare for possible cases for coronavirus, and be ready to respond appropriately if necessary.

How do you let ’em know that they’ve done wrong?

Changes to the Fire Investigation Act made at 425 ILCS/25 simplify what is required by a fire chief to notify owners of property violations of the “Life Safety Code”. Electronic mail notification can also be used, in addition to those means used in the past. The Act also reinforces the concept that the Office of the State Marshal and the local fire chief have concurrent jurisdiction regarding investigation and enforcement.

Loss of Computer on Ambulance Run Has Costly Result

Despite our best efforts, things sometime can go wrong when ambulance personnel respond to an emergency. However, losing a computer, and ending up with a bill for $65,000 from the Office for Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is probably not something that we’d anticipate in the “worst possible outcome” category. However, the West Georgia Ambulance, Inc., a small ambulance service provider from Carroll County, Georgia, has found itself in just that position. How did that happen?

Well, it started when a laptop fell off the back bumper of one of West Georgia, Inc.’s ambulances. The ambulance company notified the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services of the loss of the computer. Unfortunately, that laptop contained the protected health information of approximately five hundred patients. Sadly, the patient information was unencrypted.

That would be bad enough. However, when the Department of Health and Human Services investigated further, the Department determined that West Georgia Ambulance had failed, over time, to comply with various requirements of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). The Department determined that the noncompliance included a failure to conduct a risk analysis, the lack of a security awareness and training program, and a failure to implement HIPAA Security Rule policies and procedures. After the investigation, the Department of Health and Human Services offered West Georgia technical assistance. Despite this offer, however, West Georgia failed to take appropriate steps to address these failures.

The result: West Georgia agreed to pay $65,000 to the Office for Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and to adopt a corrective action plan that includes two years of monitoring.

This result should be a warning to all EMS providers. In commenting on this situation, Office for Civil Rights Director Roger Severino said: “All providers, large and small, need to take their HIPAA obligations seriously.”

So, if this is a warning to all EMS providers, what is the “warning” telling us? What do EMS providers need to do to “take their HIPAA obligations seriously”?

1. Make sure that your devices are encrypted. Every device should be encrypted if you are going to store health information on it. You certainly don’t want to lose a laptop – that’s bad news under any circumstances. However, if you lose a device, and the information is encrypted, then (generally) you can presume that there has not been a HIPAA breach, since no one can read encrypted data. If you can’t do this in-house, get professional help from some trusted resource outside your agency who can.

2. For any mobile devices that you use, make certain that these devices are equipped with remote locking and disabling capabilities, so that, if a device does fall into the wrong hands, the information on the device can be protected, even if your agency is no longer in physical possession of the device.

3. Have a policy in place that requires any possible breaches of protected privacy information to be reported immediately. The remote locking and disabling capabilities won’t do any good if command doesn’t know there’s a need to employ these resources.

4. Review your current policies to insure that you have all of the required policies in place. Perform the “risk analysis” that HIPAA requires, and take any corrective action that is suggested by that “risk analysis”.

5. Train your personnel about all applicable provisions of Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). This training needs to include instruction on things like security policies and possible breaches of those policies.

For more information about the West Georgia Ambulance, Inc., agreement and the corrective action plan that was required, see the following

Governor Pritzker Suspends Some Provisions of the Illinois Open Meetings Act on March 16, 2020

As government officials in Illinois know, the “Open Meetings Act” describes various steps that those officials – including the trustees of fire protection district — must take to lawfully hold a public meeting. As a part of an emergency order (Executive Order Number 20-7 [also described as 20-5]) to deal with the coronavirus, on Monday, March 16, 2020, Governor J.B. Pritzker temporarily modified certain of the “Open Meetings Act” provisions, to allow fire district trustees and other public officials to more easily hold “remote” meetings.

The language of that Executive Order states, in part at Section 6, that: “… the requirement in 5 ILCS 120/2.01 that ‘members of a public body must be physically present’ is suspended; and … the conditions in 5 ILCS120/7 limiting when remote participation is permitted are suspended…’”.

Thus, this Executive Order significantly expands when fire district trustees and other local government officials can lawfully hold a meeting, when a quorum is not physically present at the meeting location.

However, it is important to note what this emergency order did not change. Among other things, it did not change the requirement: (a) that prior public notice be given of all trustee meetings; (b) that meetings must be open and accessible to the public; (c) that an agenda of the meeting must be prepared and followed; (d) that minutes be taken and later approved; and (e) that the public must be allowed to address the Board of Trustees, although this last requirement may be very difficult to implement in practice. Nonetheless, to implement this provision, the Executive Order encourages public bodies “… to provide video, audio, and/or telephonic access to meetings to ensure members of the public may monitor the meeting, and to update their websites and social media feeds to keep the public fully apprised of any modifications to their meeting schedules or the format of their meetings due to COVID-19, as well as their activities relating to COVID-19…”..

In addition, the Executive Order encouraged public bodies “… to postpone consideration of public business where possible …”. Thus, trustees should consider whether the matters scheduled to be considered at an upcoming meeting of the Board of Trustees is of a nature that the meeting could be postponed without unduly interfering with the operation of the fire district. Because all of us are in uncharted water in this area, it would likely be wise to not address major (apparatus purchase) or “sensitive” (personnel) issues under the provisions of this Emergency Order. Additionally, trying to act in “closed”/executive session under the provisions of the Emergency Order would be practically difficult and generally should be avoided if possible. In addition, at a future meeting not held under the provisions of the Emergency Order, the prior actions of the board where the members met “remotely” should be “ratified and confirmed”.

The potential to postpone a meeting should be carefully considered, since the virus can spread in different ways, including through “community transmission”. This phrase is a fancy way of saying that we don’t know how or why it got where it did, but it did get there. “Community transmission” means that a person who has the virus is not known to have had contact with someone known to be infected with the virus, or known to have traveled to places where coronavirus is circulating (like China or Italy). The board might question whether a meeting should be held, for example, if the primary reason for the meeting is that “we always meet on the third Thursday of the month …” Public health and safety may require a deviation from the ordinary schedule in these unusual times.

As they consider whether or not to meet, trustees should be careful to do so in such a way that does not involve “contemporaneous interactive communication” with other trustees that could violate other provisions of the Open Meetings Act which have not been modified by the Executive Order.

In part because of the dangers from “community transmission” of the virus, when trustee meetings are held, “social distancing” should be observed, and the other provisions of the Executive Order – such as a ban on “50 or more people [being present] in a single room or a single space at the same time …” should obviously also be followed. In addition, trustees should also be certain to obey any other provisions regarding assembly which may have been passed by action of any applicable unit of local government.

While the information in this letter is accurate when written, please understand that the response to the coronavirus is a fast-moving target, and is subject to change at any time.

The information presented above is not intended as legal advice, and public officials should consult with their own legal advisors about specific ways in which the Illinois Open Meetings Act applies to their public body and specific circumstances. The provisions of the Executive Order are also subject to change from time to time, as the pandemic itself changes its impact on daily life.

Preventing Firefighter Suicides

The physical dangers to firefighters are well known. Less well known are the emotional challenges that result from being a firefighter or paramedic. The First Responder Suicide Prevention Act (5 ILCS 840) attempts to address these challenges. The new Act amends the Fire Protection Training Act to require training on issues related to stress, trauma, and post-traumatic experience by firefighters. It encourages referrals to employee assistance programs, within the fire department or outside of it, and creates requirements to insure that any information shared on these issues remains confidential.

Big Change in Code for the State Fire Marshal

The Office of the State Fire Marshal has made a big change in its administrative rules. While changes to administrative rules are generally uninteresting topics, the change at 41 Ill. Adm. Code 100.7 requires attention. By adoption of this rule change the Office of the State Fire Marshal has adopted the 2015 edition of the National Fire Protection Association’s “Life Safety Code” (subject to certain OSFM modifications). Pursuant to the “Fire Investigation Act” (425 ILCS 25), unless an Illinois fire protection district has adopted a different code, the 2015 edition of the “Life Safety Code” will now apply to all occupied buildings in within the district, except in schools governed by the Illinois State Board of Education.

Got “Weed”? (PA 101-27)

Headline news in all parts of Illinois has been the new law regarding the sale and possession of “recreational” marijuana. The Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act (Public Act 101-27) allows for the recreational use of cannabis in Illinois. This new Act will present challenges for trustees and our first responders on a number of levels. Responders will need to learn how to recognize when a person – both fire department personnel and those needing assistance — is under the influence of marijuana. Probably of primary concern to trustees, however, will be how to address personnel issues that might result from firefighter and EMS personnel’s use of marijuana.

Initially, it should be noted that the new law expressly prohibits firefighters on duty from using cannabis. However, there are other issues that will impact operations and possible discipline of personnel. With alcohol, for example, it is not enough that personnel refrain from drinking alcoholic beverages while on duty; we don’t want them consuming alcohol at the neighborhood bar thirty minutes before arriving at the firehouse, and responding to an emergency under the influence of the alcohol.

Insuring that personnel are not under the influence of marijuana is more complicated than it is with alcoholic beverages. Because of the nature of cannabis and the length of time its remnants can remain in a person’s system, it is more difficult to determine and document whether a person is under the influence of marijuana. As a result, post-accident and similar common impairment testing procedures will need to be reconsidered, and “chief’s orders” and “SOPs” rewritten.

Of importance in that regard is the fact that the new law provides that a fire district is not prohibited from adopting a reasonable “zero tolerance” or “drug-free workplace” policy. The law also provides that it does not limit an employer’s ability to comply with any other state or federal law, or to cause it to lose federal or state funding.

Line of Duty Death Benefit Increased (PA 101-28)

No one needs to tell firefighters and law enforcement officers that protecting the public can be a dangerous occupation. Sometimes, unfortunately, first responders face injury, and sometimes even death, in performing their duties. If a firefighter dies in the line of duty, one unfortunate side effect of this death is the financial hit that the family takes to pay the attendant burial expenses.

Effective January 1, 2020, the Illinois “Line of Duty Compensation Act”, 820 ILCS 315/3.5, has been amended, to increase the amount of burial benefit payable to the surviving spouse or estate of a firefighter who is killed in the line of duty after June 30, 2018, from a maximum of $10,000.00 to a maximum of $20,000.00. Other death benefits will also be payable.

“Prevailing Wage Act” Gets Easier (PA 100-1177)

Do you remember the Illinois legislature doing anything recently to simplify a law and make your job easier? Well, it happened in the last session of the Illinois General Assembly. Effective June 1, 2019, it became easier for units of local government – including fire protection districts – to comply with the “Prevailing Wage Act”.

As a refresher, remember that this “Prevailing Wage Act” doesn’t have anything to do with wages paid to firefighters and paramedics. Rather, it relates to when your fire district hires outside contractors, like “laborers, mechanics and other workers” to do things like build or repair a fire house, perform landscaping work, and maintain or repair certain equipment at the fire house.

In the past, the fire district was required annually during June to “… ascertain the prevailing rate of hourly wages [in the fire district] for each craft or type of worker or mechanic …” who might perform work for the district. The district was then required, “… no later than July 15 of each year, [to file] a certified copy … [of the determination] in the office of the Illinois Department of Labor…”.

Well, those requirements described above are now history. Instead of this prior procedure, the Illinois Department of Labor will determine the wage rates that apply in each county, and this rate will be binding on the fire protection districts located in that county. No need for the fire district to do this task.

While this legislative action simplifies the process, it doesn’t eliminate the other requirements of the “Prevailing Wage Act”, which will generally still apply.

Bad Fire – Who Investigates? (PA 101-82)

So, there’s a bad fire in your fire protection district … perhaps there’s not only significant property damage, but maybe even an unfortunate injury or death. When there’s a bad fire – or even a small fire – whose job is it to investigate the “cause and origin” of that fire?

If you’re the fire chief, the short answer is that “it’s your job!” PA 101-82 amends the “Fire Investigation Act” at 425 ILCS 25 to make it clear that both the Office of the State Fire Marshal (OSFM) and “local authority” (that is, you, the fire chief, or the “senior fire officer” if your department doesn’t use the term “fire chief”) share “concurrent” responsibility in seeing that the necessary investigation is done.

There’s changes both big and small in the revision to the “Fire Investigation Act” made by Public Act 101-82. And some things aren’t changed at all. For example, in the “not changed at all” category, the law continues to require you, the fire chief to “… investigate the cause, origin, and circumstances of every fire occurring …” in your district, and reminds you that you “… shall especially make investigation as to whether such fire was the result of carelessness or design …”. And, as before, the OSFM has “… the right to supervise and direct such investigation whenever it deems it expedient or necessary …”.

As stated above, there’s changes both big and small in this revision to the “Fire Investigation Act”. In the “small” category, for example, where the old law referred frequently to the “Office of the State Fire Marshal”, throughout the newly-revised Act, that’s been shorted in most places to read just “Office”. But make no mistake, this is still a reference to the Office of the State Fire Marshal.

In the “big” category, a couple of changes are noteworthy. For example, the new language includes the specific authority to the OSFM to adopt reasonable “fire prevention and life safety” rules. This broader language to include “life safety” rules and standards, and to conducting “fire prevention and life safety inspections” is contained in different places throughout the revised Act.

But what good is an inspection and an emphasis on prevention if there’s no way to mandate correction of possible violations? An associated change to the emphasis on prevention is contained in new language in the Act that provides that, “… if no corrective action is taken … to remove or remedy the dangerous condition or fire hazard within a reasonable time … an order shall be served upon the [person responsible] directing that the dangerous condition be removed or remedied immediately …”.

These changes are effective January 1, 2020.

What’s New in Bidding

One of the most challenging tasks facing a fire district trustee is purchasing new fire apparatus. One reason this task is challenging is the requirement that an Illinois fire protection district must comply with the competitive bidding requirements set out at 70 ILCS 705/11k for any purchase expending $20,000.00 or more, which amount obviously includes the purchase of new fire apparatus.

This bidding requirement for fire protection districts didn’t exist until January 1, 2015. While other units of local government in Illinois have long been required to purchase through a competitive bidding process, it wasn’t until January, 2015, that the Illinois legislature imposed this binding legal requirement on fire protection districts.

Many fire district trustees serve multiple terms on the Board of Trustees, sometimes serving for twenty, thirty, forty years, or more. As a result, many trustees remember and are accustomed to the “old” way of doing things – like purchasing a fire truck — and old habits die hard. In addition, some trustees may not be aware of the “bidding” requirement created by Public Act 98-799.

To further complicate the process, the statute mandating competitive bidding was twice amended during 2019. For all of these reasons, it’s good for trustees to periodically review what is required if a fire protection district is going to spend $20,000.00 or more.

With certain listed exceptions, 70 ILCS 705/11k of the Illinois Fire Protection District Act requires that “… all contracts for supplies, materials, or work involving an expenditure in excess of $20,000.00 shall be let to the lowest responsible bidder after advertising as required …”.

This language does not mean however, that in all cases the district must accept the lowest bid that is submitted to it. The statute includes language stating that the fire district Board of Trustees “… is not required to accept a bid that does not meet the district’s established specifications, terms of delivery, quality, and serviceability requirements …”.

The statute as originally written also exempts from the competitive bidding requirement contracts “… which, by their nature, are not adapted to award by competitive bidding …”, and the statute includes ten examples of these types of contracts.

On July 26, 2019, an additional change in the statute was made by PA 101-139, and additional exceptions to the bidding requirement were created. The statute now includes language that reads, in part:

“In addition to contracts entered into under the Governmental Joint Purchasing Act, a board of trustees may enter into contracts for supplies, materials, or work involving an expenditure in excess of $20,000 through participation in a joint governmental or nongovernmental purchasing program that requires as part of its selection procedure a competitive solicitation and procurement process …”.

Unfortunately, the legislature did not further describe exactly which purchasing programs meet the requirements set out in the newly amended statute, so this appears to be an additional area of possible confusion for both fire protection districts and apparatus vendors.

The above information is not a complete listing of all of the steps that a fire district is required to take to comply with the “competitive bidding” requirements of the Illinois Fire Protection District Act at 70 ILCS 705/11k. This article, and the additional explanations on this web site, are intended only to alert trustees about the general requirements of Illinois law. Discussion of these topics with the fire district’s attorney is strongly encouraged, in the event that any questions about this information exist.

Bidding – Where to Publish (PA 101-41)

In addition to another change in the bidding requirements that was made by the Illinois General Assembly during the summer of 2019, an amendment to 70 ILCS 705/11k of the Illinois Fire Protection District Act modified the publication requirements that are a part of the bidding process. Formerly, bid notices were required to be published in a daily newspaper of general circulation in the district. Now, the Act has been changed to simply require publication in a newspaper of general circulation in the district. The result of this change is that a weekly newspaper can now be used to meet the publication requirement. In addition, the district must post a notice of the bid solicitation on the district’s web site if the website is maintained by a full-time employee of the district. Unless the web site is maintained by a full time employee of the district, this additional legal requirement doesn’t apply. This change is effective July 12, 2019.

Keep the Bad Guys Out (PA 101-548)

Security in our schools has become an increasingly important concern in recent years, as a result of various “active shooter” incidents within our schools. In an effort to add increased protection for children and staff, the Illinois “School Code” has been amended, effective August 23, 2019, with the addition of Section 5/10-20.69. (105 ILCS 5/10-20.69). This new provision addresses one way in which access to our schools can be limited. As used in the Act, a “door security locking means” is a device “… intended for use by a trained school district employee in a school building for the purpose of preventing ingress through a door of the building…”.

Installation of such a device, however, requires compliance with various parts of the new law. A “… school district may install a door security locking means on a door of a school building to prevent unwanted entry through the door …” only if certain requirements set out in the statute are met. In some circumstances, if only some of these stated requirements are met, these devices can be installed if, among other conditions, ” … prior to its installation, local law enforcement officials, the local fire department, and the school board agree, in writing, to the installation and use of the door security locking mean …”.

In addition to the requirements described above: ” … Local law enforcement officials and the local fire department must be notified of the location of any door security locking means and how to disengage it. Any specific tool needed to disengage the door security locking means from the outside of the room must, upon request, be made available to local law enforcement officials and the local fire department…”.

Don’t Tax the District

The services that a fire protection district provides to its residents are funded, in part, by taxes that are collected on real estate within the geographic boundaries of the fire protection district. No district could get along without those tax dollars. But not all real estate within the district is taxed. For example, it wouldn’t make sense for a fire protection district to pay taxes to itself on the real estate that the district owns, like the fire house. And, if the fire district paid taxes to other taxing districts, then we would have tax monies collected from real estate taxes being paid for real estate taxes. Kind of a strange use of tax dollars.

As a result, units of local government in Illinois – like a fire protection district –aren’t required to pay real estate taxes on real estate that the district owns, as long as the real estate is used for governmental purposes.

There’s a catch, however: the county officials that assess the taxes need to know that the real estate is owned by the fire district, and that it is used for qualifying fire service purposes. If the fire district’s property is not shown as exempt on the tax rolls, real estate taxes may become due. In many cases, a township assessor or county taxing authority will automatically renew a district’s exemption from year to year. But this isn’t always the case. And even if it’s happened in the past, that’s no guarantee that it will happen that way in the future.

As a result, it is the fire district’s responsibility to see that the county taxing records are correct about real estate that the district owns. At the start of each new year, the trustees should check, to make certain that all real estate that the district owns is correctly shown as exempt on county real estate tax records, so that no real estate taxes potentially become due.

What’s it take to be a Fire Chief?

By adopting Public Act 100-425, the Illinois legislature has added a new answer to that question. This Public Act creates a new section (70 ILCS 705/16.04b) to the provisions of Illinois law that govern fire protection districts that employ career firefighters. Note that this language, because of where it is placed in the Fire Protection District Act, only applies to fire districts that have fire departments with one or more career firefighters.

Effective August 25, 2017, for affected departments, no person shall be “… appointed as the [fire] chief, the acting fire chief, the department head, or a position, by whatever title, that is responsible for day to day operations of a fire protection district for greater than 180 days …” unless the person possesses those OSFM certifications set out in the statute, or has at least ten years’ experience “… as a firefighter in the fire protection district of the jurisdiction making the appointment …” [emphasis added].

Fire Chief Gets Bells and Whistles (Siren, Too)

Everyone from a toddler on up in age knows that fire trucks come equipped with “lights and siren”, for use in responding to an emergency. Section 5 of the Illinois Vehicle Code (625 ILCS 5/12-601) has now been amended by Public Act 100-0182, effective January 1, 2018, to allow for a “… vehicle operated by a fire chief [to] … be equipped with a siren, whistle, or bell capable of emitting sound audible under normal conditions from a distance of not less than 500 feet …”. However, as might be expected, the “… siren, whistle, or bell, shall not be used except when such vehicle is operated in response to an emergency call …”. (Eff. Date 1/1/18).

Before proceeding to equip a privately-owned vehicle driven by a fire chief with such warning devices, however, it will be important to carefully consider all of the consequences that could result from such action. If the vehicle is involved in an accident, for example, which insurance company is going to provide defense and possibly pay any claim – the fire district’s or the fire chief’s private insurance? This is only one of many other questions that arise and should be considered. So, while there may be advantages to this new statute, it is not without potential downsides, which should be carefully considered by the fire district and its trustees before any equipment is purchased and installed.

Economic Interest Statements Can Pack a Punch

Those “Statements of Economic Interest” that a fire protection district trustee must file each year seem like a legal technicality and an inconvenience. However, although they may seem like a small matter, they can pack a big punch. Consider the controversy that arose when Scott Drury decided to run for the office of Illinois Attorney general, and the problems the “Statement of Economic Interests” created for Mr. Drury.

At the time he decided that he wanted to be the Illinois Attorney General, Mr. Drury was then an elected Illinois state representative. As such, Drury was required to file, and in fact did file, a “Statement of Economic Interest” in connection with that office.

Later, after that Statement of Economic Interest” had been filed for the office that he then held, Drury decided to run for the office of Illinois Attorney General. Running for this office also required him to file the beloved “Statement of Economic Interest”.

Since he’d already filed such a “Statement of Economic Interest” as a state representative, Mr. Drury did not file a new statement of economic interest regarding the position of Illinois Attorney General.

As he wished, Scott Drury’s name was set to appear on the Democratic primary ballot for Attorney General. “Not so fast” said Thomas J. Rottman, Jr. Mr. Rottman claimed that although Mr. Drury had filed a “Statement of Economic Interest” as a state representative, Mr. Drury had not filed such a statement for the position of Illinois Attorney General. That was true, no disagreement here. The disagreement came regarding whether another filing of this same form was necessary for the new office.

Mr. Drury stated that such a filing wasn’t necessary. Drury stated that since he had already filed a “Statement of Economic Interest” as state representative, there was no reason for him to again file this same form, even though a different state office was involved. Mr. Rottman disagreed, and Rottman, asked the Illinois State Officers Electoral Board to knock Drury off the primary ballot.

The Board of Elections hearing examiner agreed with Rottman, and decided that Drury should be off the ballot. But, the matter then moved to the next step, the actual State Electoral Board. This Board can overrule its hearing officer. The State Board of Elections in fact disagreed with the hearing officer, and decided Drury could stay on the ballot. Drury wins and Thomas J. Rottman, Jr. loses…. until Round Three.

Round Three is the Cook County Circuit Court, which is where Rottman next took his case. In the Cook County Circuit Court, the judge ruled in favor of Mr. Rottman. So, Drury was back off the ballot.

But again, the Cook County Circuit Court is not the ”final answer”, so off the parties go to the First District Appellate Court. The Appellate Court disagreed with the Cook County Circuit Court, and ruled in Drury’s favor. So Drury is now back on the ballot, as it is set go to the voters on March 10, 2018.

When “Routine” Becomes Deadly…

Those things that we describe as “routine” govern much of our lives, from the “routine” steps we take to brew our first pot of coffee in the morning, to the way we brush our teeth before going to bed at night. We would be lost without daily routines to follow.

But, unfortunately, routines in the wrong place or at the wrong time can prove tragic and costly. For emergency responders, something that looks “routine” can sometime be anything but that.

“Routine” perhaps helps explain how a “routine” 911 EMS call went tragically wrong. Treating the response as “routine” ended up costing a young man his life, and the City of Park Ridge, Illinois, over $5,000,000.00 in damages.

Some of the facts of the case are in dispute. However, based on the description of the call that is presented in the appellate court opinion regarding the case, the following description generally presents the picture of what happened at the time of the call, and later events that transpired as a result.

At approximately 1:00 AM, on October 31, 2004, a frantic father, Lawrence Furio, called 911 because his sleeping son, Joseph, who had a history of breathing problems and some prior drug use, was not responding to the father’s efforts to awaken his son. Fire apparatus and an ambulance, with appropriate personnel, were dispatched on a call that came in as “ …a 15 year old with difficulty breathing…”.

When the paramedics reached the Furio home, Joseph had awakened and, to a casual observer, did not exhibit any visible signs of illness or other condition of ill-being. Joseph apparently told his father, in the presence of the paramedics that some pills that he was taking made him tired. At trial, Joseph’s father testified that a “… paramedic kind of rolled his eyes like with an attitude, like why would you bother calling us, like he was put out …”. Sounds like just another “routine” call, with nothing wrong – time to return to quarters..

Perhaps because it appeared to be a “routine” call with nothing really wrong, other than a brief visual observation of Joseph, the EMTs, paramedics, and firefighters did not clinically examine Joseph, and did not provide any form of treatment to him.

Based solely on a brief visual observation of Joseph, and some level of conversation with Joseph and his father, Park Ridge personnel soon left the home and returned to the station.

If it had really been a “routine” call, the above description would probably be the end of the story. But in this case, that is not the end of the story. Unfortunately, a few hours later, Joseph again had medical problems, and again became unresponsive. His father again called 911, at which time a different set of paramedics was dispatched to Joseph’s home. On this second call, Joseph was found to be in cardiac arrest. Despite the efforts of ambulance personnel, Joseph did not regain consciousness. Paramedics transported Joseph to a local hospital, where he was later pronounced brain-dead and later died as a result of encephalopathy due to cocaine and opiates intoxication.

Joseph’s mother thereafter filed a lawsuit against the City of Park Ridge, alleging that Park Ridge personnel failed to provide appropriate emergency medical care to her son and that, as a result, Joseph died. At trial, the court found that responding personnel either were informed, or should have learned, that Joseph had a history of drug abuse.

The mother’s complaint alleged that the Park Ridge personnel exhibited “willful and wanton conduct” in the care that they provided – or failed to provide – to her son Joseph. The mother claimed that the first set of responding personnel, by failing to evaluate or assess their patient, disregarded the basic precepts of training that EMTs and paramedics receive, and failed to follow accepted hospital and EMS protocols, which protocols would have required, at a minimum, a general patient assessment. In addition, personnel failed to prepare a run sheet or document in any way any evaluation or assessment of Joseph.

There are a number of important messages first responders should take from this call and the ensuing court case. First, beware of treating any call as entirely “routine”. Significant medical issues can lurk below the surface, and patient care principles and established protocols should always be followed, regardless of how “routine” a call seems. This may be especially important, given the high level of opioid abuse that is prevalent currently.

Second, every call, even a routine call, merits an appropriate level of documentation.

Third, while the above description does not address this issue, personnel at trial were “impeached” due to prior inconsistent statements that they had made. It is always important to carefully prepare for any deposition and discovery documents in advance of trial, and to review any such depositions and other documents prior to trial.

Lastly, while not necessarily important for first responders to know, the Illinois Supreme Court ruled in this case that the “limited” immunity contained in the Emergency Medical Services System Act (210 ILCS 50/1 and following) applies instead of the “absolute” immunity for failure to evaluate or treat set forth in the Local Governmental and Governmental Employees Tort Immunity Act (745 ILCS 10/6-105 and 10/6-106), because the EMS Act is “… more specific and a more recent statute …”.. Thus, where a plaintiff establishes “willful and wanton conduct” in the first responders’ failure to treat, recovery by the plaintiff can occur.

Abruzzo vs. City of Park Ridge, 2013 IL App (1st) 122360. Prior treatment of the case at 374 Ill. App. 3d, 743 (2007) and 231 Ill. 2d 324).

GOING TRAVELING? CHECK THIS STATUE FIRST – The “Local Government Travel Expense Control Act” (Public Act 99-0604)

On November 16, 2017, by passage of PA 100-554, the Illinois legislature amended the Illinois governmental ethics act. The act now requires that all fire protection district have a “Sexual Harassment Policy” in place that conforms to the requirements of the new law. The deadline imposed by the legislature for compliance with the new law was sixty days after the effective date of the Act, or January 14, 2018.

Working to prevent sexual harassment in the workplace is nothing new to the fire service, and many fire protection districts already have such a policy in place. It is possible that no additional action will be required on the part of your fire district.

However, the new act is very specific in what the policy must contain. To be included in the policy, at a minimum, shall be the following: (1) a prohibition on sexual harassment; (2) details of how an individual can report an allegation of sexual harassment, including options for making a confidential report to a supervisor, ethics officer, the [Illinois] Inspector General, or the [Illinois] Department of Human Rights; (3) a prohibition on retaliation for reporting sexual harassment allegations, including availability of whistleblower protections under PA 100-554, the “Whistleblower Act”, and the Illinois Human Rights Act; and (4) the consequences of a violation of the prohibition on sexual harassment and the consequences for knowingly making a false report.

As a result of this legislation, each fire protection district should review its policies and procedures to insure that it has, by ordinance or resolution, a policy in place that complies with this law. In addition, while it is not stated in the legislation, it will be important for districts to make certain that the provisions of this policy are disseminated to current and future personnel, and that the district can establish that all personnel have been informed about the provisions of the policy.