LAFD: Culver City’s Insurance Policy Against Catastrophe

This week Los Angeles Mayoral candidate Austin Beutner discovered a concerning increase in the Los Angeles Fire Department’s response times.

Impacted by the LA City Council’s reduction of 318 firefighters last year response times have increased to an average of 7 minutes. The Federal Guidelines for first responders are 5 minutes 90% of the time.

 

This morning, to add insult to injury, The LA Times Kate Linthicum ran a story that in fact the LAFD has been publishing misleading data for years to hide these increasing response times. Here’s what the story said:

 

“The dust-up began Thursday, when candidate Austin Beutner complained in an online Huffington Post column that recent Fire Department budget cuts have sent response times for medical emergencies soaring. Beutner laid the blame on the City Council members who approved the cuts, singling out mayoral rivals Eric Garcetti and Jan Perry. He also criticized another opponent, City Controller Wendy Greuel, for failing to scrutinize the impact of the cuts.

 

Relying on Fire Department reports presented to lawmakers, Beutner said that in 2008 the department responded to medical emergencies within five minutes 86% of the time. After the cuts, the department last year met that standard just 59% of the time, he said.

 

Following Beutner's critique — and a Times inquiry — the department made an awkward admission: Data showing it did so well in the past was simply wrong.”

 

The real drop, it turns out, was from 64% to 59% between 2008 and 2011 - this 5% drop represents 15,000 lives at risk as a result of the 300,000 plus emergencies the LAFD responds to each year. These aren’t just numbers on a page – they’re our brothers and sisters, friends and loved ones who are not receiving a level of safety and security they would have three years ago.

 

This is a staggering decrease and one that should alarm Culver City residents. The Los Angeles Fire Department is our insurance policy against catastrophe. Our region is at risk for 13 out of 16 FEMA identified natural disasters.

 

When an earthquake or brush fire hits, localities such as Culver must rely on the LAFD’s expansive resources (LAFD is the second largest fire department in the Nation) and 3,000+ staff of firefighters to respond to these catastrophes.

 

An under-staffed LAFD with rising response times means that Culver is at risk in the event of an earthquake or brush fire.

 

In other words: When seconds count, how long can you hold your breath?

 

In a piece on The Huffington Post, Beutner went on to discuss ways we can achieve “Better Government in Los Angeles” and give the fire department they resources they need:

 

“Every LAFD vehicle should have GPS to replace those paper maps and the City should install an integrated Automated Vehicle Locator (AVL) system. This technology will allow a centralized command center to track the progress and location of every engine in our fleet -- saving critical seconds in dispatch time in addition to saving fuel and other resources.

 

These technologies have been successfully used around the country. In NYC an AVL pilot program led to a 33-second drop in response times. In Denver, dispatch times dropped to 31 seconds, half of the NFPA standard of 60 seconds.

 

Using technology to make resources go further is, however, only one part of the solution.

 

Los Angeles also has to find the financial resources in its budget to ensure our communities are safe and secure.

 

We have to grow the pie -- creating an environment where the private sector can grow and create jobs. With these additional jobs comes an increased tax base to fund core government services.

 

Every time someone calls the fire department, seconds count as lives hang in the balance. There's no excuse for Los Angeles' city leaders to fail to understand this. There's no excuse for the lack of transparency and accountability. There's no reason why their past mistakes should continue to threaten our families' safety.”

 

A 21st Century Los Angeles Fire Department does not only mean the citizens of Los Angeles will be safer; it means our entire region will be safer.

 

It’s time we all demanded better government in Los Angeles to ensure safer streets in Culver City.

 

Read the LA Times Story

Read Austin Beutner’s Huffington Post Piece on the LAFD

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Comment by Culver City Times on March 17, 2012 at 8:56am

Great piece - we shared it with everyone we know.

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