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March 13, 2012

LAFD admits exaggerating response times

Department statisticians have been calculating responses using 6-minute formula, even though federal guidelines use 5-minute standard

By EMS1 Staff

LOS ANGELES — The Los Angeles Fire Department has been releasing data that make it look like firefighters were responding more quickly than they actually were, the agency's top officials admitted Friday.

Department statisticians have been calculating responses using a six-minute formula, even though federal guidelines use a different standard requiring that first responders arrive in less than five minutes 90 percent of the time, the Los Angeles Times reported.

The exposure came when local mayoral candidate Austin Beutner wrote an online column blaming his opponents for budget cuts affecting fire service.

The flawed data said that in 2008, the department responded to medical emergencies within five minutes 86 percent of the time. In 2011, after the recent budget cuts, the department met that standard only 59 percent of the time.

Corrected data shows that the department actually hit the five-minute goal only 64 percent of the time in 2008 and 60 percent of the time in 2011, according to the Los Angeles Times.

A former department statistician, retired Capt. Billy Wells, said he followed the department's longstanding tradition of using a six-minute response standard.

The statistician after him, Capt. Mark Woolf, said he continued using that formula for a while.

"I didn't want to touch that [extra] minute because I knew the data would take a dump," he told the Los Angeles Times.

Pat McOsker, president of the local firefighters union, complained of his members being run ragged, aging dispatch equipment and a rise in units trying to respond to emergencies at the same time in the same station area. Fire Chief Brian Cummings has promised to shift some apparatus around next month, but McOsker doesn't think that is the solution.

"The way to solve this problem is to reopen resources, not to reshuffle the deck," he said. "We're not giving people the best chance to survive these things."

Fire Chief Brian Cummings said his department's performance has only increased by a few seconds — still pretty good, considering the 16 percent budget reduction it has seen recently.

"I need the public to be reassured that we're going to get there and get there in a timely matter," he said.

Comments
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Dwight Jones Dwight Jones Tuesday, March 13, 2012 6:53:36 PM ""The way to solve this problem is to reopen resources, not to reshuffle the deck," he said. "We're not giving people the best chance to survive these things." - Fire Chief Cummings. Agreed - let all those trained CPR people hear the text alerts, throw their pants on, and save their neighbours. A lot of these emergencies are not rescue-dependent, by FF people. They are safety dependent, like having an AED on site, via the fire codes. Something the volunteers can build on.
Joe Chapman Joe Chapman Tuesday, March 13, 2012 8:03:30 PM So throw money at the issue is the answer?
Tejas Pitt Tejas Pitt Tuesday, March 13, 2012 8:22:53 PM The problem is a government system that has proven its tenacity for keeping unneeded funding for the sake of a firefighter culture as opposed one of service to the public. A stubbed toe does not require the response of an $800000 aeriel ladder. It needs an ambulance. Just an ambulance.
Robert Ower Robert Ower Wednesday, March 14, 2012 12:53:25 AM Give the medical response to the private ambulance companies and you will get better response times and better service (and save the city money)
Mat Riback Mat Riback Wednesday, March 14, 2012 8:27:52 PM a stubbed toe does not require an ambulance, call a taxi and save the ambulance for someone who really needs it
Douglas Bell Douglas Bell Thursday, March 15, 2012 12:17:16 AM Public safety, no matter what the dress up is a Government SERVICE, be it, Police/law enforcement; Fire Protection; Ambulance /Emt response, water, sewage and roads. ON this basis, no matter what Country and at what level a Government, be it Local, State or federal MUST Fund it appropriately. That said, do you need a fleet of $800,000 fire vehicles when that money might buy 2 standard equipped applianaces. Many fire departments are reducing (not cutting out) turntable/platform vehicles or putting more flexible medium sized lader rescue vehicles on the road to get more value for money. 2 sep issues I know, but these days what model worker 30 years ago is NOT going to work now. management need to change as does model service delivery. Ex EMT-A and volunteer FF.
Doug Harwood Doug Harwood Sunday, March 18, 2012 8:37:04 AM Politics aside, this appears to be a universal issue where decreased funding is leading to an atrophy in resources creating increased response times. Departments and services across North America are being forced to do more with less. Some organizations are changing their business model while others are trying to make the numbers fit their traditional practices. Be Safe Doug

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