Life on the line: 911 breakdowns at LAFD

Con­tro­versy over the Los Angeles Fire De­part­ment’s re­sponse times erup­ted in March after The Times re­por­ted that fire of­fi­cials ad­mit­ted pub­lish­ing in­cor­rect data mak­ing it ap­pear res­cuers ar­rived at emer­gen­cies faster than they ac­tu­ally did.

The Times has fol­lowed up with a series of in­vest­ig­at­ive stor­ies us­ing the Cali­for­nia Pub­lic Re­cords Act and ground-break­ing data ana­lys­is that has un­covered deep-rooted prob­lems in a safety net mil­lions of Angel­enos rely on when they dial 911.

Read the full Times cov­er­age.

LAFD proposed budget, 2014-15

In a bid to roll back cuts that fol­lowed the eco­nom­ic down­turn five years ago, the Los Angeles Fire De­part­ment is con­sid­er­ing a re­quest to boost its budget by nearly 10% next year, push­ing an­nu­al spend­ing to a high of more than $600 mil­lion. The pro­posed in­creases, which would need to be ap­proved by the City Coun­cil and may­or, would go to­ward hir­ing 280 new fire­fight­ers with an over­hauled re­cruit­ment ...

LAFD chief’s retirement message

Los Angeles Fire Chief Bri­an Cum­mings an­nounced his re­tire­ment as head of the city Fire De­part­ment with this press re­lease. Cum­mings had struggled to re­store con­fid­ence in his man­age­ment of the 3,500-em­ploy­ee de­part­ment after of­fi­cials ad­mit­ted last year to mis­stat­ing emer­gency-re­sponse times, mak­ing it ap­pear that res­cuers ar­rived faster than they ac­tu­ally did. Dur­ing his cam­paign, May Eric Gar­cetti said he lacked con­fid­ence in the fire chief’s lead­er­ship and second-guessed ...

A new Los Angeles city coun­cil­man has called on the city Fire De­part­ment to pre­pare a far-reach­ing plan to ex­pand the on­go­ing over­haul the de­part­ment’s aging tech­no­logy, with the aim of im­prov­ing re­sponses to 911 calls for help. City Coun­cil­man Mike Bon­in made a mo­tion Wed­nes­day re­quest­ing the LAFD and city tech­no­logy of­fi­cials de­vel­op a “mas­ter plan” to pull to­geth­er ex­ist­ing up­grade ef­forts and con­sult with private-sec­tor tech­no­logy tal­ent about ...

Los Angeles City Coun­cil­man Gil Ce­dillo has called for the city Fire De­part­ment to re­spond to a sweep­ing set of re­forms re­com­men­ded last week by the Los Angeles County Civil Grand Jury. The grand jury’s fi­nal re­port, re­leased Fri­day, ar­gued for fully re­vers­ing budget cuts made to the LAFD dur­ing the eco­nom­ic down­turn, re­pla­cing the fire­fight­ers who an­swer 911 calls with lower-skilled ci­vil­ians and an over­haul of the de­part­ment’s com­puter sys­tems.

Los Angeles city lead­ers should re­verse budget cuts made to the Fire De­part­ment dur­ing the eco­nom­ic down­turn and en­act a sweep­ing series of re­forms to the de­part­ment’s 911 call cen­ter, ac­cord­ing to an re­port by the Los Angeles County Civil Grand Jury re­leased Fri­day.

Audit of LAFD’s ‘alternative’ investigations

The Los Angeles Fire De­part­ment has failed to prop­erly in­vest­ig­ate mis­con­duct al­leg­a­tions against the fire chief, top uni­on of­fi­cials and mem­bers of an elite unit that delves in­to charges in­volving rank and file fire­fight­ers, ac­cord­ing to an audit presen­ted to the city Fire Com­mis­sion Tues­day. The re­port by the agency’s top watch­dog con­cluded that the pro­cess is un­der­fun­ded, poorly run and plagued by sloppy re­cord keep­ing and in­com­plete field­work. The ...

LAFD response to audit of ‘alternative’ investigations

The Los Angeles Fire De­part­ment has failed to prop­erly in­vest­ig­ate mis­con­duct al­leg­a­tions against the fire chief, top uni­on of­fi­cials and mem­bers of an elite unit that delves in­to charges in­volving rank and file fire­fight­ers, ac­cord­ing to an audit presen­ted to the city Fire Com­mis­sion Tues­day. Here is the de­part­ment’s re­sponse to its re­com­mend­a­tions.

LAFD chief’s report on ambulance plan

This re­port by LAFD Chief Bri­an Cum­mings was in­ten­ded to quell cri­ti­cism of his plan to re­as­sign 22 fire­fight­ers per shift from en­gines to am­bu­lances, a move he said was ne­ces­sary to ad­dress a grow­ing load of 911 calls for med­ic­al help.

Draft LAFD ambulance plan

With the over­whelm­ing share of his agency’s 911 calls now re­quest­ing emer­gency med­ic­al care, LAFD Chief Bri­an Cum­mings is mov­ing for­ward with a con­tro­ver­sial plan to shift more fire­fight­ers from en­gines to am­bu­lances. Cum­mings, who has been un­der pres­sure to im­prove re­sponse times, said the de­part­ment must re­con­fig­ure its de­ploy­ment prac­tices to handle cur­rent work­load de­mands. But the city fire­fight­er uni­on and the as­so­ci­ation rep­res­ent­ing chief of­ficers op­pose the change, ...

Firefighter groups’ position paper on staffing changes

With the over­whelm­ing share of his agency’s 911 calls now re­quest­ing emer­gency med­ic­al care, LAFD Chief Bri­an Cum­mings is mov­ing for­ward with a con­tro­ver­sial plan to shift more fire­fight­ers from en­gines to am­bu­lances. Cum­mings, who has been un­der pres­sure to im­prove re­sponse times, said the de­part­ment must re­con­fig­ure its de­ploy­ment prac­tices to handle cur­rent work­load de­mands. But the city fire­fight­er uni­on and the as­so­ci­ation rep­res­ent­ing chief of­ficers op­pose the change, ...

Withdrawn LAFD restoration plan

LAFD Chief Bri­an Cum­mings told the city Fire Com­mis­sion Tues­day he’s pulling back for more study an am­bi­tious plan called for by the City Coun­cil that would boost the de­part­ment’s ranks and aim to lift its sag­ging re­sponse times. Last Decem­ber, Coun­cil mem­bers Eric Gar­cetti and Mitch Englander de­man­ded that fire of­fi­cials ap­pear be­fore the full pan­el after Cum­mings failed to pro­duce the multi-year budget plan they re­ques­ted earli­er in ...

County fire chief’s letter on automatic aid

The fire chiefs from county, city and Gl­end­ale fire de­part­ments re­cently met to lay the ground­work for a pos­sible re­gion­al net­work that would auto­mat­ic­ally de­ploy fire and res­cue based on their loc­a­tion to an emer­gency, ac­cord­ing to this let­ter from county Fire Chief Daryl Osby. The re­port was pre­pared in re­sponse to a mo­tion by Su­per­visor Mike Ant­onovich fol­low­ing a Times in­vest­ig­a­tion that found the Los Angeles Fire De­part­ment rarely ...

Judgement gives LAFD dispatchers backpay

A court rul­ing last year that made the city li­able for $8 mil­lion in un­paid dis­patch­er over­time.

Internal LAFD reports on proposed staffing change

Los Angeles of­fi­cials are press­ing for a ma­jor cost-cut­ting change at the Fire De­part­ment’s troubled 911 call hand­ling cen­ter des­pite a top com­mand­er’s warn­ing that mak­ing the move is too risky and would jeop­ard­ize pub­lic safety. As­sist­ant Chief Daniel Mc­Carthy, the call cen­ter com­mand­er, warned in a June re­port to the chief that mak­ing the staff­ing changes be­fore im­proved com­puter equip­ment is in place “would be a tragedy for those ...

LAFD documents on ‘quick launch’ program

Los Angeles Fire De­part­ment of­fi­cials, fa­cing cri­ti­cism over slow re­sponse times to 911 calls, are con­sid­er­ing two new strategies that could get res­cuers to the scene of med­ic­al emer­gen­cies more quickly. One pro­gram, known as “quick launch,” re­duced the time it took to get fire units mov­ing by an av­er­age of 50 seconds — roughly in half — dur­ing a test peri­od in 2006. The ex­per­i­ment al­lowed dis­patch­ers to send ...

LAFD data analysis task force report

A long-awaited re­view of Los Angeles Fire De­part­ment re­sponse times has found that the agency used in­ac­cur­ate data “that should not be re­lied upon un­til they are prop­erly re­cal­cu­lated and val­id­ated.”

Aid agreement between LAFD and county from 1996

Since 1980, the Los Angeles Fire De­part­ment has had an auto­mat­ic aid agree­ment with the county call­ing for the two agen­cies’ dis­patch sys­tem to be joined. The doc­u­ment, be­low, has been re­peatedly re­vised. But the de­part­ments have nev­er fully linked their 911 sys­tems. The LAFD’s dis­patch­ers have the abil­ity to call in help from the county, but rarely do so, ac­cord­ing to a Times ana­lys­is.

Aid proposal between LAFD and county from 1979

The ori­gin­al 1979 pro­pos­al for an auto­mat­ic aid agree­ment between LAFD and the county Fire De­part­ment prom­ised to save lives if the two sys­tems were joined. The doc­u­ment, be­low, has been re­peatedly re­vised in the years since. But the two de­part­ments have nev­er fully linked their 911 sys­tems. The LAFD’s dis­patch­ers have the abil­ity to call in help from the county, but rarely do so, ac­cord­ing to a Times ana­lys­is.

Harbor Gateway called a ‘valley of death’

This 1984 Times art­icle chron­icled the death of Linda Jef­fer­is, who suffered a fatal heart at­tack while driv­ing the thin strip of the Los Angeles city lim­its that con­nects South L.A. to the har­bor. Be­cause that area be­longs to the city, Jef­fer­is was forced to wait for far away LAFD res­cuers to ar­rive, even though county sta­tions on the oth­er side of the bor­der were closer. The delay in med­ic­al ...

Hooks family’s lawsuit against LAFD

The fam­ily of Stephanie Hooks is su­ing the city of Los Angeles claim­ing that a slow re­sponse by the Los Angeles Fire De­part­ment con­trib­uted to her death.

LAFD chief’s statement on aid agreement

Be­low is the full state­ment of Los Angeles Fire De­part­ment Chief Bri­an Cum­mings in re­sponse to ques­tions from The Times about his de­part­ment’s auto­mat­ic aid agree­ment with the Los Angeles County Fire De­part­ment.

LAFD chief’s statement on CPR report

Be­low is the full state­ment of Los Angeles Fire De­part­ment Chief Bri­an Cum­mings in re­sponse to ques­tions from The Times about a re­cent LAFD re­port that scru­tin­ized the per­form­ance of the de­part­ment’s call cen­ter.

LAFD cardiac arrest dispatch protocol

The doc­u­ment be­low is an ex­cerpt from a prin­ted ver­sion of the scrip­ted ques­tions LAFD dis­patch­ers must work their way through on a com­puter as part of every 911 call. It de­scribes how dis­patch­ers must re­spond to re­ports of car­di­ac ar­rest, where the heart sud­denly stops beat­ing.

LAFD report on CPR delays

Los Angeles Fire De­part­ment dis­patch­ers waste valu­able seconds get­ting 911 callers to start CPR on car­di­ac ar­rest vic­tims, of­ten be­gin­ning the life-sav­ing pro­ced­ure after the point at which brain death be­gins, ac­cord­ing to this sharply worded in­tern­al study ob­tained by The Times. The full re­port is be­low with ex­cerpts from 911 calls high­lighted as ex­amples by the de­part­ment.

LAFD memo describing dispatch database

This LAFD memo de­scribes how the de­part­ment’s dis­patch­ing data­base should be ap­proached by ana­lysts. It shows staff mem­bers strug­gling to ex­plain the de­part­ment’s own pro­ced­ures. “We need to come up with a list­ing of what to ex­clude!!!” the memo reads, in a sec­tion ded­ic­ated to spelling out which re­cords to re­move when ana­lyz­ing dis­patch data.

Mayor’s response to LAFD data discrepancies

Seek­ing to bol­ster pub­lic con­fid­ence in how the Los Angeles Fire De­part­ment re­sponds to emer­gen­cies and handles data, May­or Ant­o­nio Vil­larai­gosa has called on the City Coun­cil to dip in­to budget re­serves to pay for six ad­di­tion­al res­cue am­bu­lances and has an­nounced that he wants to in­stall a na­tion­ally re­cog­nized ex­pert in stat­ist­ics to over­see the agency’s ac­count­ing of its per­form­ance. In a let­ter to the coun­cil sent late Thursday, ...

Controller analysis of LAFD response times

The Los Angeles Fire De­part­ment is tak­ing longer to get to med­ic­al emer­gen­cies than it was be­fore budget cuts three years ago, ac­cord­ing to a much-an­ti­cip­ated audit of the agency’s re­sponse times re­leased Fri­day by City Con­trol­ler Wendy Greuel.

Progress report on LAFD data reforms

Emer­gency re­sponse times provided by Los Angeles fire of­fi­cials to City Hall lead­ers can­not be trus­ted be­cause of prob­lems with soft­ware used to pre­pare the num­bers, ac­cord­ing to re­port by Jeff Godown, an ex­pert as­signed to audit the Fire De­part­ment’s data ana­lys­is. The re­port called on the de­part­ment to stop us­ing the soft­ware un­til the prob­lem is fixed and re­com­men­ded an over­haul of the unit that ana­lyzes stat­ist­ics for Fire ...

Controller letter demands more LAFD data

The may­or last month called for an audit of the de­part­ment’s re­sponse times to re­as­sure the pub­lic. City Con­trol­ler Wendy Greuel, who is con­duct­ing the re­view, sent a let­ter to fire of­fi­cials Wed­nes­day com­plain­ing that her aud­it­ors had not re­ceived all of the in­form­a­tion they re­ques­ted. The miss­ing in­form­a­tion in­cludes de­part­ment policies and pro­ced­ures, as well as an ex­plan­a­tion of how the de­part­ment codes its data, Greuel spokes­wo­man Shan­non Murphy ...

Mayoral aide’s letter to City Attorney on LAFD data

In a let­ter to City At­tor­ney Car­men Trutanich’s of­fice, Bri­an Cur­rey, Chief Coun­sel to the may­or, un­loaded a lengthy leg­al ana­lys­is claim­ing the of­fice has hobbled the re­lease of de­tailed data on how quickly fire­fight­ers get to those in need in vari­ous parts of the city. Among oth­er things, Cur­rey claimed that the city at­tor­ney’s of­fice wrongly warned fire of­fi­cials that they could be crim­in­ally pro­sec­uted for dis­clos­ing in­form­a­tion that ...

Mayor orders LAFD to release emergency data

Los Angeles May­or Ant­o­nio Vil­larai­gosa on Wed­nes­day af­ter­noon dir­ec­ted his fire chief to stop with­hold­ing in­form­a­tion from the pub­lic on the de­part­ment’s emer­gency med­ic­al re­sponses. The may­or’s un­usu­ally blunt or­der came after a day of tur­moil at City Hall in which coun­cil mem­bers cri­ti­cized the de­part­ment for dis­con­tinu­ing a years-long prac­tice of provid­ing ba­sic res­cue re­sponse de­tails, such as in­cid­ent times, loc­a­tions and the nature of the emer­gen­cies, as well ...

LAFD letter regarding data privacy

This let­ter was sent to two Times re­port­ers on Fri­day who were seek­ing de­tails re­gard­ing emer­gency in­cid­ents con­nec­ted to a March 7 dis­patch sys­tem break­down that delayed re­sponses in at least two in­cid­ents.

Fire­fight­ers at Sta­tion 14 in South Los Angeles said they went to bed on March 1 think­ing that their alarms would work be­cause ra­dio watch was can­celed. But the alarms failed to work the next morn­ing after a struc­ture fire broke out and left two people dead

Councilman Zine Orders LAFD Review

The mo­tion calls for the Fire De­part­ment to re­port on how it cal­cu­lated its emer­gency med­ic­al re­sponse data

Firefighters union criticizes Mayor Villaraigosa

Sim­mer­ing ten­sions between Los Angeles May­or Ant­o­nio Vil­larai­gosa and the head of the city’s fire­fight­er uni­on erup­ted Tues­day dur­ing a news con­fer­ence about Fire De­part­ment emer­gency re­sponse times and dis­patch sys­tems. Pat McO­sker, pres­id­ent of United Fire­fight­ers of Los Angeles City, had passed out a let­ter to re­port­ers ac­cus­ing the de­part­ment and Vil­larai­gosa of know­ingly us­ing “false stat­ist­ics” to jus­ti­fy budget cuts that res­ul­ted in the pub­lic “be­ing put in per­il.”