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Two council members assail LAFD over response times

Garcetti and Englander demand to know why the Fire Department has not presented specific actions that could be taken to improve response times by rescuers during life-and-death emergencies.

November 17, 2012|By Robert J. Lopez, Kate Linthicum and Ben Welsh, Los Angeles Times

The Los Angeles Fire Department, which has been embroiled in a months-long controversy over response-time data, has failed to move decisively to resolve the problem, two Los Angeles City Council members said Friday.

In a formal motion, council members Eric Garcetti and Mitch Englander demanded that fire officials appear before the full council as soon as possible to explain why the department has not presented specific actions that could be taken to improve response times by rescuers during life-and-death emergencies.

"The department's managers are either unwilling or unable to do their job to reduce response times and make L.A. safer," said Garcetti, who is running for mayor, in a statement.

Battalion Chief Armando Hogan said Fire Chief Brian Cummings would respond to issues regarding the agency's data on Tuesday at LAFD headquarters, after a regularly scheduled meeting of the Fire Commission.

Friday's comments by the council members were some of the most critical to date about Cummings and his department since the data controversy erupted in March. That's when the LAFD acknowledged it was using response time figures that made it appear that rescuers were reaching victims in need faster than they actually were.

The motion comes after a series of Times investigations on delays in processing 911 calls, dispatching rescuers and summoning the nearest firefighters from other jurisdictions in medical emergencies.

On Thursday, The Times reported that waits for medical aid vary dramatically across Los Angeles' diverse neighborhoods. Residents in some of the city's most exclusive hillside communities can wait twice as long for rescuers to arrive as people who live in densely packed areas in and around downtown, according to the analysis that mapped out more than 1 million LAFD dispatches since 2007.

A task force of experts formed by Cummings has found that inaccurate response time data were a result of systemic problems in the LAFD's 30-year-old computer-assisted dispatch system and a lack of training by LAFD personnel who were assigned to complex data analysis projects.

Earlier this year, Garcetti and other council members asked the LAFD to return with a five-year plan laying out what is needed to improve response times. The council members wanted specifics regarding technology, more firefighters and other resources.

"Six months later, we have bupkis, and that's unacceptable," said Garcetti's spokesman, Yusef Robb.

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