L.A. Chief Blames Slower Response Times on Cuts

L.A. Chief Blames Slower Response Times on Cuts

News Dec 05, 2012

Dec. 05--Los Angeles Fire Chief Brian Cummings turned the tables on City Council members Tuesday, blaming increased 911 response times on budget cuts approved by lawmakers.

"You gave us a budget," Cummings said during a nearly two-hour City Hall hearing. "We're giving you the most effective Fire Department that we can within that budget."

Cummings was summoned to appear before the council after he failed to produce a plan to improve service and response times, which have grown longer since budget cuts were ordered three years ago after the economic downturn.

The council asked for the blueprint in April. On Tuesday, Cummings was given an additional 60 days to submit the plan.

Cummings blamed the delay on the department's data problems, which have been the subject of multiple investigations by city auditors and outside experts. Years of response time data were found to be flawed and the LAFD has accurate data only for the last two to three months, Cummings said.

Reliable performance data from a longer period is needed before changes in the department deployment plan can be recommended, he said. Improvements will require more funding, he added.

"The simple answer is money," Cummings said. "The way we improve response times is by putting more resources in the field."

The department's performance has been under scrutiny since March when fire officials acknowledged producing inaccurate response time data that made it appear rescuers were getting to emergencies faster than they actually were.

Fire officials are dealing with other embarrassments. Federal officials are investigating whether confidential information was obtained illegally on hundreds of patients who rode in Fire Department ambulances, according to a city lawyer. The department also has been criticized by the city's top budget officials for going over its budget by millions of dollars.

On Tuesday morning, The Times reported on a YouTube video titled "Firehouse Burlesque Hula Hooping" showing a woman in high-heels and tight shorts dancing with a hoop at a Venice fire station. The video was a promotion for Hoopnotica, a fitness company. The firm's chief executive said the shoot was unplanned, lasted no more than 30 minutes and that no money changed hands.

Continue Reading

Last year, firefighters from the same Venice firehouse and another station were investigated for allowing fire engines to be used in porn shoots. Shortly after those videos surfaced, the controversy spread to Cummings when the chief acknowledged that he once posed for racy photos with a bikini-clad woman when he was stationed in Venice as a captain.

Cummings said the department was investigating the hula hoop video. Councilman Mitchell Englander, who chairs the council's Public Safety Committee, said firehouse antics are "another part of the culture we have to change."

At the council meeting, Cummings and other fire officials reviewed the recent findings of a task force formed to examine the department's various data management troubles.

Councilman Eric Garcetti said he was happy the data problems were being addressed, but said he wanted a detailed plan for service improvements.

He also said the department needs stronger leadership. "I want somebody fighting for this department," he said. "Talk to your firefighters out there. They don't feel that is happening."

After the economic downturn, the council and Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa cut the LAFD's annual budget by $88 million -- from $561 million in 2008 to $473 million in 2011.

The cuts led to service "brownouts," which took units out of service on a rotating basis, and which were eventually replaced by a new deployment plan. Cummings, an assistant chief at the time who oversaw development of the redeployment, predicted response times would match pre-recession levels following the changes. But investigations by The Times and City Controller Wendy Greuel found response times for medical emergencies have increased over the last four years.

Councilman Richard Alarcon admonished his colleagues, saying they should have known their budget cuts would lead to slower response times.

"Even Barry Bonds can't hit home runs with a plastic bat," said Alarcon, who voted against the cuts.

This spring, responding to concerns about the department's performance and the controversy over the accuracy of its data, lawmakers added back $40 million to the department budget. Cummings has requested an additional $50 million in next year's budget.

kate.linthicum@latimes.com

robert.lopez@latimes.com

ben.welsh@latimes.com

Copyright 2012 - Los Angeles Times

Source
Los Angeles Times
Kate Linthicum, Robert J. Lopez and Ben Welsh
Leaders want to provide first responders with guidelines to follow when handling calls relating to human trafficking.
The study will assess Florida's Division of Emergency Management's response to Hurricane Irma and determine the lessons learned.
The state funding will provide 120,000 doses for first responders, including Pittsburgh park rangers.
The budget cut allowed the department to cross-staff, using firefighters to staff ambulances due to medical calls outnumbering fire calls.
Starting next year, the insurer will reimburse treatment that doesn’t require the emergency department.
One of the two Northern California wildfires have been fully contained due to cooler temperatures and light rain.
Kenneth Scheppke challenged longstanding traditions in patient care that have not withstood current scrutiny.

EMTs and other first responders who treated the wounded on scene of the Vegas shooting could be at risk for post-traumatic stress.

All EMS, fire, and law enforcement agencies in the county will participate in the drill along with 100 volunteers portraying victims of the shooting.
As the state begins facing the effects of the opioid crisis, medical professionals, law enforcement and prosecutors join the national discussion on possible solutions to the epidemic.
Only one of three in the country, the "rapid extrication team" assists in rescuing injured firefighters while local crews battle the forest fires.
The paramedic-staffed chase car would respond to ALS calls in a timelier manner and help alleviate several local fire departments' calls.
Las Vegas and Orlando massacres set a solemn tone for the normally festive event.
In a project to raise grant funding that began a year ago, the Richmond Ambulance Authority and VCU Health teamed up to provide 35 of Richmond’s Public Schools with Bleeding Control (BCON) equipment. 
Mercy Health's new two-story, 29,000 square foot center features a Level 1 trauma center, an expanded surgical area, and more comfortable patient and visitor access.