The contentious relationship between Antioch officials and the Antioch Rescue Squad has flared, with the village threatening a lawsuit over advertised services it says created a potentially dangerous situation.
The village notified state authorities and issued a cease-and-desist order after learning of the flier, which it says was distributed last week to an unknown number of people including seniors and disabled citizens.
In the flier, ARS claimed to be able to provide emergency medical services within the village, and residents were directed to call a 10-digit number with the promise a 911 dispatcher would send an ambulance.
The rescue squad is composed of volunteers that for 73 years had provided emergency services within the village, but that relationship ended June 1. The village now contracts with Superior Air-Ground Ambulance Service for emergency rescue service in town. The Antioch Rescue Squad provides emergency services only in unincorporated areas in Antioch Township.
According to the rescue squad, no more than 30 copies of the flier were set on a table at the Antioch Township center. Remaining fliers were removed after the village alerted the squad, although 21 fliers could not be collected.
Even if the two-call system worked, according to village officials, several dangerous situations could arise, including a delay that could cost lives and no chance of finding the caller if there is a hang-up or dropped call.
Citizens should call 911 in an emergency, Mayor Lawrence Hanson said Tuesday in a statement.
"Directing people to use any other number is illegal, and it could have cost someone his or her life," Hanson said. "ARS owes an apology to the citizens of Antioch for selfishly trying to subvert the 911 system."
In a letter Tuesday to the Illinois Department of Public Health, the rescue squad explained its actions, saying it had tried to establish a system for nonemergency care of village residents,
The squad acknowledged it mistakenly said it could provide emergency care in the village, which is not the case. It also said the directive that a 911 dispatcher would send an ambulance was a misstatement, as the contract with a 911 dispatch agency had not been finalized.
Arrangements have been made for calls to the 10-digit number to be forwarded to 911 for proper handling, according to the village.
The rescue service still contends it should be allowed to provide nonemergency services to village residents. The village says the rescue squad has no local license to pick up or transport anyone within the village limit, unless specifically called through mutual aid or the village.
The rescue squad says it does not collect tax money and provides its service for free. Village officials say taxpayers contributed an estimated $70,000 to $80,000 per year in fuel, rent, dispatch and other services.