SPRINGFIELD – Too many Illinois first responders are being lost in the line-of-duty and State Sen. Chapin Rose (R-Mahomet) is seeking a legislative remedy to decrease the number of service fatalities.
“Illinois continues to lose an alarming number of first responders in the line-of-duty as they respond to calls on our interstates, highways and county roads. Being a first responder, transportation or highway worker presents certain dangers and we must examine ways to reduce the number of fatalities,” Rose said.
The legislation is inspired by the tragic deaths of two public servants on the Interstate 55 corridor within the past year. Hudson firefighter Chris Brown lost his life on March 5, 2013 during a fire call in McLean County and last October, Pontiac police officer Casey Kohlmeier lost his life to a drunken driver while responding to a motorist’s distress call. Brown was a high school classmate of Sen. Rose’s.
Rose’s legislation, Senate Joint Resolution 62 would create the Emergency Responder Roadway Safety Task Force to identify and recommend ways that the State of Illinois can increase safety procedures as first responders preform their jobs.
SJR 62 welcomes the support of local fire officials and emergency service workers. Greg Scott, who runs the McLean County Area EMS said there is a need for the task force.
“As emergency responders are rendering assistance to those that are in need along the State of Illinois roadways, it is of critical importance for mechanisms to be identified to keep these emergency responders as safe as possible during their time on the roadways,” Scott said. “Senator Rose has taken the lead by calling for the creation of a task force to study the hazards being faced daily by the emergency responders across the State of Illinois while they respond to incidents on the roadways. There is a need for elected officials, state agency representatives and emergency responders to work collaboratively on solutions that can be implemented to reduce the risks for personnel working on the roadways.”
Cornbelt Fire Protection District Chief Lloyd Galey also called attention to the problem. “Any county road or highway can be a danger to us or anyone who works on these thoroughfares like first responders, IDOT workers and other personnel who work on our highways.”
Firefighter advocacy groups like the Associated Fire Fighters of Illinois are also supportive of the legislation, “as firefighters we understand our profession is inherently dangerous, however, anytime we can create ways to minimize the risks associated with it, we obviously want to do that,” Chuck Sullivan, Legislative Representative said. “Once again, Senator Rose has stepped forward on behalf of emergency service personnel by creating a task force to study and recommend actions to prevent further injury and death to our members while they mitigate emergencies on roadways. For that, we applaud his efforts and wholly support Senate Joint Resolution 62."
The task force will be comprised of 16 members from various branches of the first responder community and various populations. Two members will come from the Illinois Department of Transportation, one member will be an appointee of the Illinois State Police, nine members will be representative of the fire, police and emergency medical services. Those nine members will also be representative of rural, suburban and major metropolitan areas. Legislators from each of the four major caucuses will round out the 16 member panel.
SJR 62 was introduced on March 21 and awaits Senate action.