Faulty mutual aid drives LAFD response-times problem

The reported agreement to link dispatch systems still sees crews logging slower response times


LOS ANGELES — Despite an agreement to link dispatching operations, Los Angeles first responders are still logging slower call times, an investigation has found.

A Los Angeles Times analysis says that Los Angeles' city and county fire agencies agreed to link dispatching systems in 1979 both to cut back on costs and presumably save more lives.

The Times examined more than 1 million Los Angeles Fire Department responses over the last five years and found that the LAFD rarely goes across county lines to help.

According to the paper, emergency callers within a quarter mile of the city's border are almost 50% more likely to wait more than 10 minutes for responders to arrive.

Looking at 70,000 medical calls, the LAFD sent out crews even though county firehouses were closer — more than 1,300 of those calls were cardiac arrests. Firefighters are supposed to arrive under six minutes with most any medical call, and with cardiac arrest, brain damage can begin after just four minutes.

Fire Commissioner Alan Skobin told the Times he was concerned about the findings.

"If there's a way to leverage technology to get another unit to the scene, we should be doing that," he said.

Even though the agreement to connect dispatching operations was signed more than three decades ago, costs have hampered the effort of mapping out and connecting the systems.

Currently, if LA city dispatchers want to call a county department to respond to a call, they must call by phone, a method that takes too long, Commissioner Skobin said.

The Times found that over the last five years, the LAFD only called county crews in less than 10 percent of emergency medical cases.

Some LA families have filed lawsuits against the city in deaths that may have been avoided had rescue crews arrived more quickly and were more efficiently dispatched.

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