LA Fire Department Withholds, then Releases Data

Social media sites are again carrying information on 911 calls and response times.

by / December 16, 2013

The Los Angeles Fire Department (LAFD) ordinarily provides information related to 911 calls to the public and the media, and even provides a Twitter feed. But that changed last Thursday.

LA Fire Department tweet announcing the account's hiatus
According to media reports, a notice posted on LAFD social media sites said that a new interpretation of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) forbids public access to medical information, including response times to emergencies by fire personnel. But LA Mayor Eric Garcetti disagreed and the policy was quickly reversed, with Twitter and 911 call records again available to the public.

What made this shutdown particularly noteworthy was that this was the second such incident. Last year, according to the Los Angeles Times, fire officials admitted misstating response time statistics. When the media requested access to 911 call records and other material, the LAFD temporarily blocked access to those records, but reversed course when then-mayor Villaraigosa objected.