First Arriving Network
First Arriving Network

LAFD Admits Inflating Response Time Results Favorably

Hadn't Switched to New Criteria Standards

THE LOS ANGELES (CITY) FIRE DEPARTMENT ISSUED a mea culpa Friday afternoon admitting that for several years they had been claiming better-than-actual response times for their fire and ambulance emergencies.  The disclosure was made after the Los Angeles Times questioned the results being claimed and looked into the stats more closely.

photo by ELKI

The Times reports:

Federal guidelines call for (firefighters) to arrive on scene in under five minutes 90% of the time. But a former department statistician counted all responses within six minutes, officials explained, which improved the record. Retired Capt. Billy Wells, who crunched the data with a hand calculator, said he followed the department's long tradition of using a six-minute response standard.

Wells' successor, Capt. Mark Woolf, said he reluctantly continued using the flawed formula for a time because he didn't want to be blamed for a sudden drop in department performance. "I didn't want to touch that [extra] minute because I knew the data would take a dump," he said.

Corrected data generated by a new computer system shows that in 2008, the department actually hit the five-minute goal only 64% of the time, officials said. By last year, that number had fallen to about 60%.

Fire Chief Brian Cummings said his department's performance is pretty good, given the 16% reduction to its budget in recent years, which has led to the elimination of firetrucks or ambulances at about one-fourth of the city's 106 fire stations.

The problem first came to light when a candidate for the upcoming mayoral election, Austin Beutner criticized the city controller for failing to scrutinize the effects of recent budget cuts that had shown a precipitous drop in response times after 2008.

Read the complete Los Angeles Times story HERE.

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