The LAFD has posted the information on its website, which details overall average response times and those for each of the individual 102 stations in the city.
Saying the current numbers “stunk” for response times by the Los Angeles Fire Department to fires and medical emergencies, Mayor Eric Garcetti on Thursday released the initial reports gathered under the long-awaited FireStat program.
“This is a new department driven by metrics,” Garcetti said at a news conference at the Emergency Operation Center alongside Fire Chief Ralph Terrazas and Councilman Mitch Englander, who called for the FireStat program two years ago.
“I believe using this data, we can cut seconds, tens of seconds off response times,” Garcetti said. “Those seconds could be the matter of life and death for someone.”
The LAFD is the first fire agency in the nation to gather response time information and make it public. It has posted it on its website at http://lafd.org/about/performance, which details overall average response times and those for each of the individual 102 stations in the city. It will be updated monthly.
The figures show that fire response times increased an average of seven seconds over last year, which the department couldn’t explain. Most units are able to respond within five minutes to calls, something Garcetti said he believes can be improved upon.
“One of the things of my back-to-basics agenda is getting people service,” Garcetti said. “Nothing is more of a core service than calling 9-1-1 and having someone respond.”
The call for the FireStat program came after conflicting statements from former Chief Brian Cummings on the response times and cuts he had imposed to meet budget goals.
It turned out the department was issuing incorrect reports on the response times, resulting in Garcetti asking Cummings to step down and calling for outside evaluators to develop the new system.
Garcetti has made the LAFD one of his top priorities, bringing in Terrazas as chief, finding the budget to hire new firefighters and increasing management accountability within the department.
“The days of the Los Angeles Fire Department playing second fiddle within the city are over,” Garcetti said.
Some changes already have been made as a result of the data collected, Terrazas said.
“We know Venice Beach is very busy and crowded and difficult to get through,” Terrazas said. “What we’ve done is put paramedics on bicycle patrols to get through the crowds.”
Also, the department is using the data to track false alarms and alert people to the problems they are creating.
Garcetti said the data could also lead to other changes, including how fire station coverage areas are configured and possibly greater cooperation with neighboring jurisdictions to provide coverage when one department is busy with calls.
Englander, who chairs the City Council’s Public Safety Committee, said it was clear to him “the fire system was broken.”
“But you can’t fix something without knowing what was broken,” Englander said, adding the data goes a long way in helping provide some of those answers.
Terrazas said the LAFD is the only fire department in the country that is publicly posting its response times.
Measured is the amount of time it takes to process calls when they first come in to the 9-1-1 system, the time it takes for firefighters to put on their gear and leave the station and the travel time it takes to get from the station to the incident.
Garcetti said it is an example of how technology can help provide the metrics needed to measure how well an agency is performing. Eventually, he wants a similar system in place for all city departments.
FireStat is modeled after the Los Angeles Police Department’s CompStat program put into effect under former Chief Bill Bratton. It brings together commanders and their top staff for monthly meetings to discuss crime trends and any particular problems that have developed. Three firms reviewed the raw data to make sure it was accurate.
The LAFD, which received the data earlier this month, has not been able to hold a citywide meeting yet but has been meeting with groups of fire station personnel to discuss what they have found with FireStat. Officials estimate they have been through 80 percent of the fire stations.
There are plans for the LAFD to develop a command structure similar to the LAPD, where stations are based in bureaus and an assistant chief is responsible for all the activity in that region.
The overall citywide average in response times showed firefighters responded in 6:42 to fires and 6:35 to medical calls in 2014. Both response times were 6:35 in 2013. Officials said they could offer no reason for the discrepancy.
Officials cautioned the figures are averages of averages and do not take into account the amount of time for individual stations to receive a call. Also, it does not include turnout time for when units are in the field and sent to an emergency.
Most of the response times in the 38 Valley fire stations were generally about the same, with firefighters taking between 1:12 and 1:15 to get on the trucks and leave and travel time in the four-minute range.
There were some exceptions, however, at stations that cover large geographic areas or are in mountainous areas where there are narrow roads.
For instance, Fire Station 97 at 8021 Mulholland Drive, serving the Mulholland and Laurel Canyon areas, is faced with average travel times of 5:16 for medical calls, a drop of three seconds from last year, and 5:46 for fire calls, a 65-second improvement from last year.
Fire Station 77, 9225 Sunland Blvd., in Sunland, saw an increase in its response times to fire of 4:50 to 5:13 and to emergencies of 4:38 to 4:51. The station covers some of the largest areas of the city with 14.36 square miles.
Another station with a wide area to cover is Fire Station 91, 14430 Polk St., in Sylmar, which has 12.54 square miles for which it is responsible. Its response time for medical calls stayed the same at 5:01 compared with last year, but fire response times went up slightly from 5:21 to 5:38 this year.
©2014 the Daily News (Los Angeles)