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LAFD Response Times Dip After Station Shutdowns …. (No! Really?)

Anybody Besides the Fire Chief and Mayor Surprised at This?

THE LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA, CONTROLLER Wendy Greul released the report yesterday of an audit her department conducted into the Fire Department's response times.  Using a 2-year baseline from June 2007 to July 2009, the auditors found that after the fire station closings and rotating brownouts took place in July of last year, the response times for ambulance calls increased an average 12 seconds citywide and as much as 20 seconds in certain areas including the San Fernando Valley.  The Daily News reports:

The report found response times for emergency medical calls increased an average of 12 seconds to four minutes, 57 seconds. However, the response time to fires and non-medical emergencies dropped about 21 seconds — also to four minutes, 57 seconds.

Pat McOsker, president of the United Firefighters of Los Angeles City, said the audit confirms his warnings over the past several years.

"You cannot cut the department by the 15 percent it has been cut and not have an impact," McOsker said. "In emergencies, seconds count and we have a system that delays the response."

Not to be overlooked in the report is this observation by the Controller:

She also expressed concern about the quality of the department's response time data, noting that about one-third of the incidents reviewed were not coded properly and it was unclear whether they were emergency or non-emergency calls.

"It's unacceptable that the LAFD has not been able to accurately track its emergency response times," Greuel said, adding she hoped the audit would lay the groundwork for city officials to make improvements.

In her report Greuel also pointed out that 650,000 of the 1.9 million incident reports they reviewed were coded "unclearly" rendering their study unable to be compared with the NFPA response standards.

KNBC-TV Ch. 4 tells more in this video report:

 

View more videos at: http://nbclosangeles.com.

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, left, and Fire Chief Brian Cummings
discuss response times and deployment at a March 13 news conference.
(Barbara Davidson, Los Angeles Times / March 13, 2012)

It has been pointed out that part of the problem is created at the dispatch center where calls are taking longer to be processed before the alarm is dispatched. Again from the Daily News:

(Local President) McOsker said part of the problem is dispatchers are required to go through a list of more than 20 questions before an emergency call is placed with paramedics. The protocol was developed to try to reduce the number of calls made for nonemergencies.

"There was a time that once they determined the nature of the emergency, they could send a unit out," McOsker said. "Now, they have to go through the entire list of questions before they send anyone to the call."

Using their own resources to analyze the raw data, the Los Angeles Times has concluded:

(Times staff writer Ben) Welsh crunched data from more than 1 million dispatches from the department's database and found that the Fire Department falls far short of the standard that rescue units be alerted within one minute on 90% of 911 calls. And average call-processing time has increased, most notably for medical calls, which account for the overwhelming majority of responses.

Five years ago firefighters were dispatched to medical calls within a minute 38% of time, the analysis found. By 2011, that number dropped to 15%.

The Times also found that in the more than 250,000 medical dispatches last year, the department took 75% longer, on average, than the national standard.

You can read the entire 46-page Controller's report (.pdf file) HERE.

On March 18 Firegeezer reported on the surprising announcement that LAFD had been using phony numbers to calculate their response times.  Read that posting HERE where we also addressed the vehicle maintenance problems that are affecting the response times as well.

It was also last March when McOsker opined:  "This department is being held together with bubble gum, baling wire and duct tape."

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Comments - Add Yours

  • Skip Kirkwood

    This is a big “so what” from my view.  Ambulance response times don’t much matter anyway, and an ‘average’ increase of12 seconds mean that most didn’t change at all.

    Give it a rest!

    • DaGonz

      That is an “average”.. when it is your emergency, you will see differently.

      • BH

        Doubt it.  Skip knows that for probably 90% of EMS calls, we could get there tomorrow and it wouldn’t affect the outcome.  Even if you added the 12 seconds to every single call it’s still hardly worth talking about. 

      • BH

         I should add: doesn’t change the fact that the city’s original assertion that closures would not affect response times should be fully exposed for hat it is: complete bunk. 

        It’s just that in this case, the increase doesn’t help the “ZOMG WE’RE ALL GONNA DIE!!1!” argument. 

  • CA guest

    It matters when someone calls 911 from across the street of a fire station and it still takes 5 minutes to get there, and 6 for patient contact….from across the street.

    2-3 minute call processing
    (some places dispatch an ambulance non emergency as soon as someone says “medical”, then upgrade or add units later as needed, reducing dispatch time to about 10 seconds)

    1 minute reaction/reflex time
    (time between station alert and wheels rolling)
    (national standard)

    1 minute negotiating traffic/parking lot

    another 1-2 minute to get equipment and get to the patient.