At 9:28 a.m. Saturday a Porter County radio dispatcher advised area
emergency services that Burns Harbor’s new ALS ambulance is now available to
The message, played over a loudspeaker at the Burns Harbor fire station,
prompted applause from approximately 30 persons assembled for a ceremony
marking the town’s milestone.
“This is a very important day for us in Burns Harbor in what I feel is
another giant step in public safety for our community,” said fire chief Bill
“This has been no small task and hats off to these guys for pulling this
off,” said Porter Regional Hospital emergency room physician Dr. Dave
Cummins, who serves as medical director for Burns Harbor’s ambulance
He said paramedic advanced life support is the standard of ambulance care in
the country today “and these guys will be second to none.”
The town Fire Department has operated a separate basic-life-support
ambulance since 2006 and will continue to do so.
Cummins said BLS allows certified responders to offer limited first aid like
CPR and oxygen. ALS enables specially trained paramedics to do more like
cardiac monitoring, start IVs, administer medication and provide advanced
Arney emphasized that the town’s new ALS service will assist, not compete
with, other Porter County ambulance providers that have mutual aid
agreements and operate as one larger team. “The ideal is to lower response
times (and) give the best patient care we can.”
Burns Harbor deputy fire chief Brian Beach will serve as his department’s
chief paramedic and oversee its program. Fifty-three employees, nearly all
part-time, will staff the 24-hour ambulance service. “It’s not a moneymaker.
It’s not going to make the town rich or sink the town either,” Beach told
The Town Council appropriated $125,000 this spring to buy the ALS ambulance,
necessary equipment and fund salaries through year’s end. Paramedic staffing
for one year is estimated to cost about $250,000 and the council is giving
the ALS service one year to prove itself financially. Patients using the
service are charged a fee.
Arney thanked the Town Council for its financial commitment and confidence
in the Fire Department, and local businesses including ArcelorMittal and
Praxair for about $50,000 in cash donations to the ambulance service. Les
Swanson, in charge of fire protection at the Mittal plant, said they are
very excited about the ALS service and believe it will help them out.
Town Council members Jeff Freeze and Mike Perrine as well as clerk-treasurer
Jane Jordan were present Saturday.
Perrine, liaison to the Fire Department, said Burns Harbor is becoming a
bedroom community for Chicago and as resources in Porter County get
stretched as the population grows, “In emergency medical service, a delay
can have catastrophic consequences.”
He also commended the Fire Department for being one of the best, and said
vehicles and equipment alone won’t save lives. “These are tools dedicated
and hardworking people use because they love this town and the fire
It’s reassuring, added Perrine, that Burns Harbor’s largest corporations can
be counted on to respond when the town has special needs.
Jordan was recognized for playing a large part in the new service; although
ambulance fees are billed through a third party, the money collected is
deposited by her into a non-reverting town fund and she has increased
payroll responsibilities for the many additional employees.