Budget cuts have increased the response times of firefighters and paramedics in parts of Los Angeles by as much as 20 seconds, according to an audit released today by the city controller.
The report from Controller Wendy Greuel is based on data collected by the Los Angeles Fire Department from Jan. 1, 2007 to March 26 of this year. However, earlier this week the man charged with investigating the LAFD’s response times reported he had no confidence in the data.
The audit found that the average response time to emergency medical calls increased from 4 minutes and 45 seconds in 2009 to 4 minutes and 57 seconds in 2012. In the San Fernando Valley, the average response time increased by 20 seconds. In the East Los Angeles, San Pedro and metro areas, it is taking an average of 18 seconds longer to get to life-threatening calls.
“The public safety and budgetary policies that we create or change depend on having accurate data,” said Councilman Mitch Englander, chair of the Public Safety Committee.
“We don’t know what the numbers really are. We know that after our controller’s audit, they’re not right. The numbers we have are not correct.”
In part, the numbers are not accurate because 650,000 of the 1.9 million calls reviewed by the controller’s office were improperly coded by dispatchers so that it was not clear if they were emergency or non-emergency calls.
“If it’s garbage in, it’s garbage out,” Englander said.
The fire department’s response to non-medical calls decreased from 2009 to 2012, from an average of 5 minutes and 18 seconds to 4 minutes and 57 seconds, according to the audit. The response of Advanced Life Support resources also decreased by 16 seconds to 5 minutes and 5 seconds.
The staffing levels of the Los Angeles Fire Department have fluctuated since 2009. A new deployment plan was put into place in July 2011. LAFD’s budget for 2011-12 was $472 million, down from $561 million in 2009-10.
Fire Chief Brian Cummings told reporters he had not yet reviewed the controller’s audit but remained committed to reviewing LAFD’s numbers.
“Our goal is to respond to every incident with the appropriate resource as quickly as possible so we can render aid,” Cummings said.