Los Angeles News

City Council votes for outside group to examine fire department response times

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Emergency response by the Los Angeles City Fire Department: Is it fast enough? And have budget cuts made a difference? The department's own statistics are now being questioned.

In the past few weeks there has been confusion over how long it really takes the Los Angeles City Fire Department to respond to medical and fire emergencies. Minutes and seconds can mean lives are lost or serious injuries incurred. And the department's own times, announced by the chief, have been contradictory.

The fire department has faced criticism in recent weeks over its use of misleading response time stats and problems with its dispatch system.

"I did not do a good enough job in explaining the difference in the numbers that we were using, both the projections in presenting the plan, and then the actual numbers," said LA Fire Chief Brian Cummings.

The Los Angeles City Council voted to have a third party explain the discrepancies and come up with an analysis of current response times. The fire department response time, according to its own figures, is longer than the national standard of five minutes by as much as 40 percent of the time.

"People deserve to know not just in the public, but policymakers when they're projections, how that affects both their districts and overall," said L.A. City Councilman Eric Garcetti.

Pat McOsker is president of United Firefighters of Los Angeles City, the union representing city firefighters. Earlier at a fire commission hearing McOsker said it could cost lives. He's been pushing to have ambulances and fire stations restored to full operation following deep cuts.

"Forty percent of the time we don't get there on time to save a life if someone is not breathing, if someone is choking on a chunk of meat," said McOsker.

"Sixty-plus stations in the city of Los Angeles, if they get a call, we've got to bring somebody from another district, and 464 square miles is a large city," said Chief Cummings. "Yes, we do need more resources."

When the analysis and reviews are complete the L.A. City Council and Fire Department hope to have some definitive answers about response times and what can be done to improve them.

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