LAFD: response times a matter of credibility

The newest member of the Fire Commission was directed to follow up on the Los Angeles Fire Department's ongoing problems with response times after an initial assessment found there is no confidence in the numbers.
The newest member of the Fire Commission was directed to follow up on the Los Angeles Fire Department's ongoing problems with response times after an initial assessment found there is no confidence in the numbers. Dan Steinberg/AP

The newest member of the Board of Fire Commissioners was tasked today with following up on the Los Angeles Fire Department’s ongoing issues with response times in light of an initial assessment that found there is no confidence the department’s numbers are accurate.

Alan Skobin’s assignment follows an assessment that found the two systems that determine how long it takes firefighters and paramedics to respond to an emergency calculate different answers.

“If we can’t get the response times right, we’re going to have issues as far as credibility,” said Jeffrey Godown, LAFD’s interim director of Statistical Analysis and Review. “Right now, we have to fix the response time issues and that’s what I’m extremely concerned about.”

Fire Chief Brian Cummings told commissioners that there is a minor difference between the Crystal Reports and Deccan International system used by LAFD.

“We’re not talking huge inconsistencies here. We’re talking about seconds,” Cummings said.

During the morning meeting at City Hall East, commissioners complained that they received Godown’s report just minutes before the discussion. Commission President Genethia Hudley-Hayes was angered to learn the report was released to members of the media last night.

“Oh, I’m not happy about that,” she said. “If it was done 14 hours ago, then we should have gotten it 14 hours ago as well.”

The president of United Firefighters of Los Angeles City said he remains skeptical that accurate response data will be released.

“The mayor has a vested interest – he cut the budget to the fire department. He took ambulances and fire trucks off the streets,” said Pat McOsker. “We’re not getting there on time and now he’s appointed another guy to tell us what response times are in L.A.”

Problems began two months ago when then-mayoral candidate Austin Beutner wrote an article for the Huffington Post that questioned how often LAFD meets a national standard to arrive at emergencies within five minutes of a 911 call. The Los Angeles Times then discovered LAFD had changed how it determines a response time and in fact was not responding as quickly as the public had been led to believe.

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