PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — The Peoria Fire Department upgraded medical services from basic life support (BLS) to advanced life support (ALS) to the North Peoria area on Monday.

Engine 15, located at Station 15 on Detweiller Drive, will now have a paramedic on board with every call.

“When we upgrade from BLS and ALS, what that does is it adds a paramedic to that apparatus, and then it expands their capabilities as a firefighter and what they can do,” said Peoria Fire Chief Shawn Sollberger.

Sollberger said the process to upgrade to ALS started back in the 1990s. Engine 15 is the 11th out of 12 fire stations in Peoria to be upgraded.

“The collective work over a long period of time with the City of Peoria leadership, four former fire administrations, Advanced Medical Transport, and our courier EMS office has gotten us where we are today,” said Sollberger.

Sollberger said the vision is to offer advanced life support on every call before AMT arrives.

“The concept is that the fire department does potentially at times show up first, establish a level of care, and then the transporting agency comes in after that … We feel really good about our path as a department, providing this level of service to the citizens of Peoria,” he said.

Tony Cummings, division chief of operations at Peoria Fire Department, said offering advanced life support makes a difference when it comes to treating cardiac arrests.

“That’s a huge thing because you got to look at the national average of survivability with cardiac arrests, and we’re running at a higher standard generally that we see pretty much throughout the rest of the country,” he said.

Cummings said out of 379 cardiac arrests last year, 48 left the hospital “neurologically intact,” about 13% survivability.

“That’s why it’s really important for us to go ALS as far as every engine company that has to have a paramedic on each unit,” he said.

Cardiac arrests have just a 12% survivability rate outside a hospital, according to the American Heart Association.

Sollberger said it takes about 18 months to become a paramedic. The fire department has secured an Assistance to Firefighters Grant (AFG) from FEMA to train five firefighters to paramedic status.

Engine/Station 11 on Florence Ave. remains the only one without ALS capability.