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June 23, 2024

Shelby County – An Example Of Problem Solving

By Kirk Allen & John Kraft

On May 23, 2024

Shelby Co. (ECWd) –

In May of 2023 a dust storm south of Springfield, Illinois resulted in a multi-vehicle pile-up with multiple deaths on Interstate 55.  Emergency personnel from multiple districts were called to manage the mass casualty incident which included numerous vehicle extrication/rescue operations.  With those types of multi-jurisdiction responses, there are always problems that percolate from an operation of that magnitude, most commonly who is in charge.  The problems experienced typically become great training opportunities to prevent repeating the same mistakes.

The aftermath of that accident resulted in this legislation being pushed through which permits the Sangamon County Board to form a Rescue Squad to “assist” other emergency agencies.  That language is a clear recognition that they are not in charge but rather there to offer assistance as the actual command of those operations falls onto the local emergency agency.  While those who pushed it through were focused on Sangamon County, its passage created a new law that failed to name any other counties which created a statutory prohibition for other counties to form a rescue squad.

While many locals in Shelby County have implied Shelby County Rescue should be shut down because the new law does not permit Shelby County to have a Rescue Squad because of the new Sangamon County law, the truth is they do not understand the law.   The prohibition created is that counties can not form a rescue squad unless named in the law.  It does not address the issue of counties who already have a rescue squad performing certain functions under the Hazmat and Technical Rescue Teams Act in the counties code.  While similar origination ordinance issues plague the Shelby County Rescue team as they did the dive team, the key difference, as we understand it, is insurance claims have been paid and assurances given that the rescue team is covered by the insurance whereas the dive team was arguably not, according to the lawyer representing the insurance company.

Considering standards for certifications for technical rescue changed years ago, most volunteer agencies can’t meet those requirements.  That leaves them only to perform things such as vehicle and machinery rescue, traffic assistance, and wilderness search operations which do not have the stringent certification requirements found in other rescue operations such as high angle, confined space, and rope rescue.

Recognizing the restrictive nature and proper application of the Hazmat and Technical Rescue Teams Act, County Board member Sonny Ross has been working diligently with the legislature in Springfield to establish the Shelby County Rescue Act, which would be more appropriate for the operations they currently perform than trying to shoehorn them into the Hazmat and Technical Rescue Teams Act.

Problem Solved

Yesterday the final votes on the legislation resulted in unanimous votes in both the House and Senate, creating the Shelby County Rescue Act. Once the law is signed by the Governor and effective we would anticipate action by the County Board to establish the Rescue Squad under this new law.

While we appreciate Ross’s focus on solving the problems before them, history has shown when legislatures create legislation targeted at select public bodies rather than applying it to all of them, all counties in this case, it tends to create more problems down the road known as unintended consequences.  A simple fix would have been to authorize the “county government” to form the rescue squad in the original legislation.  Doing that would have saved all kinds of additional work for the legislature and their staff and minimized the politically charged local hysteria from those who do not understand all the details of the laws.




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  • Kathiann
    Posted at 07:25h, 24 May Reply

    As usual, it does appear that no one in government is able to think ahead and factor in unintended consequences, thus doing the same thing over and over but expecting different results. Where is common sense and critical thinking these days?

  • Homer
    Posted at 11:20h, 25 May Reply

    Why is there still a website saying Robert Hanlon Shelby County states attorney

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