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About RED Center

RED Center is an integrated, multi-jurisdictional dispatch center that provides for the capability of closest station re­sponse re­gardless of jurisdictional boundaries through a coordinated central office.

This translates into a more rapid response in a fire or medical emergency, and thus a quicker return of apparatus to full service for additional calls for service. It also gives the ability to provide a greater amount of needed initial resources on larger incidents.

Our History

Since its inception in 1977, RED Center has continued to excel in its ability to provide fast, effective EMS and fire re­sponse to emergencies. When RED Center started, it was located in the Dempster Street station of the Niles Fire Department. In 1981, it relocated to the basement of Glen­view Fire Station 6 on Glenview Road in downtown Glenview. With the addition of 911 systems in 1991, RED Center became a secondary Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP).  A primary PSAP is usually a police station or other location where a 911 call is initially received. Those calls requiring fire department or EMS responses are immediately transferred to the secondary PSAP.  This transfer process happens in approximately four sec­onds.

Early in 1998, based on the increase in call volumes and the limited space available in Glenview, the Chiefs of the member de­partments began researching sites for a new facility. The current facility in Northbrook, Illinois, which began opera­tions in December of 2001, dramatically increased the size, expandability, and function­ality of the operation. The center contains six fully functional workstations, each using PC-based phone, radio, and Computer Aided Dispatch (C.A.D.) systems.  This facility pro­vides the staff with such amenities as a kitchen, locker room, and break room. This allows the center to be a self-suffi­cient and secure facility.

RED Center has a professional staff that consists of an Executive Director, two Deputy Directors, an Administrative Services Manager, an IT Services Contractor, four Shift Coordinators, sixteen Alarm Operators and an Alarm Management Specialist.  The dispatch office is staffed twenty-four hours a day, with a minimum of four telecommunicators per shift. These professionals are also certified in Emergency Medical Dispatch (EMD) and Emergency Fire Dispatch (EFD). This allows the telecommunicators to provide key medical assistance in an emergency, including pre-arrival instructions for CPR, choking, & childbirth. The Illinois Department of Public Health recognized RED Center as the first dispatch center certified to perform EMD.  There is a detailed quality assurance process to monitor EMD performance, and RED Center continues to excel in this area.

The high level of service provided to the fire departments and districts is due to the dedication to excellence of each of the RED Center staff members.  After 27 years of service at RED Center, Executive Director Chris Lienhardt retired in January of 2024. A national search for the next Executive Director is currently underway. 

In addition to the responsibilities enumerated above, RED Center serves as the headquarters and divisional dispatching center for Division 3 of the Mutual Aid Box Alarm System (MABAS). Division 3 is made-up of seventeen fire departments in an area north of Chi­cago and immediately west of Lake Michigan. The purpose of MABAS is to provide the im­mediate assistance of equipment and trained personnel to any jurisdiction experiencing a large emergency or multiple simultaneous emergencies.  Rapid responses under MABAS are accomplished using pre-arranged “box alarm” cards. The telecommunicators at RED. Center will use these cards to dispatch the needed resources. All radio communications and additional requests are coor­dinated by R.E.D. Center.

The staff of the dispatch office is also responsible for the coordination of any suburban response into the City of Chicago for any incident north of 22nd Street, as well as any suburban response to an incident at O’Hare Interna­tional Airport.

RED Center was recognized for excellence by the State of Illinois. Thus, RED Center was cho­sen to serve as the primary dispatch center for the coordination of any statewide responses of firefighting personnel and equipment, EMS personnel and equipment, water rescue response teams, hazardous materials response teams, and/or technical rescue teams.  When mobilization of these resources is made pursuant to the direction of the Illinois Governor’s office, RED Center coordinates the responses of these units to any natural or man-made disaster and any incident of terrorism within the State of Illinois or in another state as requested through a federal state-to-state mutual aid system (as was the case when Illinois mobilized 250+ fire apparatus and nearly 1,000 firefighters to New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005).

In 2020, RED Center was chosen as the primary dispatch center for the K9/Drone Search and Rescue Strike Team (SRST).  The objective of the SRST is to provide and promote search and rescue K9 teams, drones, command staff, and utility terrain vehicles as a resource to local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies, fire departments, and to our communities, to locate and rescue lost or missing individuals.  The team is compromised of K9s and handlers from MABAS-Illinois Urban Search and Rescue Task Force 1 (IL-TF1) and drone pilots from area fire departments who utilize K9 search capabilities and drones to quickly and effectively locate missing persons.  For more information on the SRST, click here.

Since 1977, RED Center has established itself as an efficient, cost-effective operation due to its sound man­agement practices and its professional staff members, who are most dedicated to protecting their families, friends, and neighbors. The highly progressive Board of Directors and Joint Chiefs Authority remain committed to laying the groundwork for additional improvements that will insure RED Center’s continued progress and further success.

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