Audit: Responses to Emergencies Lagging | NBC Southern California

Audit: Responses to Emergencies Lagging

Large swaths of suburban LA, many of them hardest hit by budget cuts, saw response times for medical emergencies sag by up to 20 seconds

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Los Angeles City Controller Wendy Grueul says LAFD response times have been hurt by budget cuts, making it harder for paramedics to respond quickly to health emergencies and car crashes, for example. Gordon Tokumatsu reports for the NBC4 News at 5pm on Friday, May 18. (Published Friday, May 18, 2012)

    LA firefighters are slower to respond to medical emergencies -- such as heart attacks and car crashes -- than fires, and the system for tracking response times is unreliable, according to a city audit released Friday.

    The audit, released by City Controller Wendy Greuel, shows that since July 2009, average response times for medical emergencies have increased by 12 seconds, from 4 minutes, 45 seconds to 4 minutes, 57 seconds.

    Responses slowed as the department shifted resources due to a city budget crunch.

    The area seeing the slowest times was the San Fernando Valley, where average response times jumped by over 20 seconds. East Los Angeles, San Pedro, and the downtown metro area each saw response times increase by an average of 18 seconds.

    Audit: Response Times For Most Critical Emergency Calls Lagging

    [LA] Audit: Response Times For Most Critical Emergency Calls Lagging
    Los Angeles Controller Wendy Greuel found that large swaths of suburban Los Angeles, many of them hardest hit by budget cuts, saw response times for emergency calls sag up to 20 seconds between 2009 and 2010, but that systems for tracking accurate numbers are dubious. Gordon Tokumatsu reports for the NBC4 News at noon on May 18, 2012.
    (Published Friday, May 18, 2012)

    The report found that response times for non medical emergency calls dropped, from an average of 5 minutes, 18 seconds to 4 minutes, 57 seconds. Response times for structure fires have stayed relatively flat, going from 3 minutes, 36 seconds to 3 minutes, 37 seconds.

    "Public safety is absolutely the city's top priority," LA Councilman Mitch Englander, the chairman of the Public Safety Committee, said in a statement. "We must have accurate numbers on fire response times because you can't fix what you can't measure."

    Los Angeles Fire Chief Brian Cummings said in a statement that he had not had an opportunity to read the audit and so could only comment generally.

    LAFD Response Times Have "Credibility Issue"

    [LA] LAFD Response Times Have "Credibility Issue"
    New questions were raised Tuesday, May 15, about the time it takes Los Angeles Firefighters and Paramedics to do their jobs. Statistics expert Jeff Godown says software problems and human error make it hard to calculate correct response times. Gordon Tokumatsu reports for the NBC4 News at 5 p.m. on May 15, 2012.
    (Published Tuesday, May 15, 2012)

    "The Los Angeles Fire Department is committed to dispatching the appropriate resource to the correct address as quickly as possible for every single incident to which we respond," Cummings said.

    Greuel's report said it was unclear if the department met its goals because nearly a third of the 1.9 million calls her office reviewed were not clearly classified as emergency or non-emergency. So there was no way to compare to the standards put out by the National Fire Protection Association.

    The calls, the audit said, “could be categorized as either an emergency or a non-emergency, at the discretion of the dispatcher.”

    Greuel’s report calculated both the actual response times, which include just turnout and travel, and real response times experienced by the caller, which include call processing. Since July 2009, real response times for EMS have increased by 20 seconds, from 6 minutes and 48 seconds to 7 minutes and 8 seconds. Nearly half of this increase is attributable to a 9 second increase in call processing time, which has increased from 95 seconds to 104 seconds.

    The audit comes during budget deliberations as city officials struggle with a $240 million city deficit.

    It also comes as a shrinking staff of fire department mechanics are struggling to keep up with a growing backlog of repairs to the department’s fleet.

    The audit comes more than two and a half months after NBC4 first reported sagging response times at the LAFD.

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