Dell Urban
North Chicago Fire Chief
   When you speak with Dell Urban, North Chicago Fire Chief, you’re drawn into a phenomenal masterclass in the art of leadership, selfless service and genuine care and concern for the men and women she leads and the safety of the citizens of North Chicago. She is warm, funny, engaging and completely dedicated to those who respond to life and death calls each day.
Did you always want to be a firefighter?
   “No, I wanted to be a photographer for National Geographic, Audubon Society. I love photography. I was accepted to Columbia’s Art School but my brother took me to the fire station one day and I loved it, beginning my journey in fire service.” Chief Urban has served 32 years as a firefighter with 29 yrs. serving North Chicago. In 1991, she became the first female firefighter hired in North Chicago.
In your experience, what is the key to developing a good team?
   “Appreciation. It’s important that they feel they are appreciated for who they are and the vital service they provide. It’s important to include them and keep them in the know. I’ve found that everyone works harder and feels more a part of the team when they know leadership cares and is right there with them and acknowledge the work, it’s not that they ask for it, it’s a part of leading and having compassion.”
How do you motivate your team members?
   “It’s about making the people around you smarter, so I ensure they get any and all additional training  available as well as providing them the opportunity to attend school in order to help them on the job as well as future endeavors.”
What do you feel is your strongest attribute?
   “Organization. Being organized serves me well, kt saves time looking for things because its already where it is supposed to be. Being detail oriented is extremely helpful with every aspect of this job with the budget being just one example. Keeping track of our funds is one of the most important aspects of this job and being diligent and organized is key.”
What can the community do to assist the fire departments as related to safety?
   “Regular smoke detector and carbon monoxide checks, replacing batteries to ensure they are functioning properly. Car seat safety checks and installation which we offer free of charge. The community has consistently worked well with us.”
What is your biggest challenge as Fire Chief?
   “Right now its COVID-19. It is a huge challenge balancing home life and work life- keeping both safe.  You need balance to do both. Social distancing within the stations is something new, we all wear masks and we no ling have meals together which was a big part of our everyday life as firefighters. The budget is another challenge. Oftentimes we have to find funds for items we need or that will enhance our jobs so I  write numerous  grants and find the money, as much as I can. I’m persistent with finding funding.”
Some of the things Chief Urban is most proud of in the past 10 years:
  • Purchase of an Engine/Ladder truck from grants; $2.5-$3 million grant funding
  • Free smoke detectors for North Chicago residents these were purchased through the station,
each ward was afforded as many detectors as they needed
  • Grant funding of $2500.00 from North Shore Community Fund, NCFD Public Safety and Prevention Program to purchase carbon monoxide detectors, any  senior citizen can get one and firefighters will install them free of charge, limited to first 250 senior citizens
  • 30 new self-contained breathing apparatuses, a significant upgrade over the old equipment, They   
also received a new Cascade system, which refills the bottles.
            “The new ones have built in safety provisions and they increase our air from 30 minutes to 45      
             minutes so we have more time for search and recovery,” Urban said.
             They will also have emergency oxygen bottles for when a firefighter gets trapped inside a  
             structure that gives rescuers 60 minutes of air time.
             The equipment cost $195,000. The federal share is 90 percent or $175,500, while the city has to   
             cover 10 percent of the cost or $19,500. The North Chicago City Council approved its share.
             The grant money came from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Assistance to      
             Firefighters Grant Program, administered by FEMA in cooperation with the department’s United   
             States Fire Administration.                                               Lake County News-Sun, Jul 30
   I asked Chief Urban what is one of many things that will make her a happy Chief, she explained for everyone to get a detector for each floor of their home and to be knowledgeable and practice Fire Prevention.
   Chief Dell Urban is a positive, progressive leader in our community whose motivation, hard work, dedication and vision continues to positively impact those she leads and the residents of North Chicago.