City Defends LAFD Response Times

Mayor calls for city controller review

By Olsen Ebright and Robert Kovacik
|  Wednesday, Mar 14, 2012  |  Updated 12:04 PM PDT
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Mayor Villaraigosa and Fire Chief Brian Cummings publicly addressed the issues brought up in a First on 4 look into lapses in response times since the LAFD's new deployment plan was implemented. Robert Kovacik reports.

Mayor Villaraigosa and Fire Chief Brian Cummings publicly addressed the issues brought up in a First on 4 look into lapses in response times since the LAFD's new deployment plan was implemented. Robert Kovacik reports.

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City Defends LAFD Response Times

The LAFD response time has been in question since a new deployment plan took effect in July. It came at the direction of the City of Los Angeles, which forced the fire department to cut approximately a quarter of its arsenal.

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Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa has called for independent review of the Los Angeles Fire Department's response time data amid criticism over the way the numbers were calculated.

"Yesterday, my office reached out to (City Controller Wendy Greuel) on behalf of (LAFD Chief Brian Cummings) and myself. We asked for an independent analysis to reassure Angelenos and conduct a review of the department's response time data immediately," Villaraigosa said Tuesday.

The LAFD has been under fire recently for fudging response times for years, categorizing 6-minute responses the same as 5-minute responses.

Federal guidelines require fire companies to respond within 5 minutes 90 percent of the time. By lumping in the 6-minute times, the department was able to achieve an 86 percent as recently as 2008.

However, corrected data showed that in 2008, the LAFD was only hitting the 5-minute mark 64 percent of the time.

On Tuesday, the mayor applauded the department for its transparency and assured residents the city had the "best-trained and most-experienced firefighters anywhere in the United States of America."

"It's ones of the few -- if not only -- major fire departments in the nation to release data on its response times," Villaraigosa said.

LAFD responds, on average, in 7 minutes and 24 seconds, 90 percent of the time, and since the new deployment plan went into effect, response times have gotten further from the 5-minute goal, according to records obtained by NBC4.

Cummings has disputed those findings.

"Looking at our response time to all calls, our average response time is just over 5 minutes," Cummings said. "We are getting there. We're getting there quickly and we're going to be there."

The LAFD response time has been in question since a new deployment plan took effect in July. It came at the direction of the City of Los Angeles, which forced the fire department to cut approximately a quarter of its arsenal. The LAFD must now do without four ambulances, nine paramedic supervisor units and 18 fire engines.

When asked if the budget gap was closed at the sake of public safety, Villaraigosa said, "No, it was not."

"We had to find a deployment that minimized any impacts on those response times," Cummings said. "The Los Angeles Fire Department is still, our response times are probably some of the best in the country. Would we like to have better response times? Absolutely."

In January, a man was burned over 60 percent of his body in fire in West Hills that took a response of roughly 9 minutes. The family of Jack Mocaer told NBC4 News that the fire department apologized to them for showing up late.

A donation fund has been set up for the Mocaer family here. Just click "Tribute Gift" and then write "Jack Mocaer" for "This donation is in honor of." Technical assistance is available by calling 818-981-2100.

 

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