Budget Cuts Increase LA Fire Response Time Slightly

The fire chief says $80 million in cuts during the past three fiscal years have caused average response time to be four seconds longer than in FY2008-09.

The Los Angeles Fire Department is responding to an increasing number of EMS calls and to more than 1,000 calls daily across 469 square miles, even though nearly $80 million in budget cuts in the past three fiscal years have reduced daily staffing by 12 percent, fire companies by 12 percent, and BLS ambulances by 17 percent, Fire Chief Brian L. Cummings wrote in a message posted on the department's website March 16.

"A recent review of data under the newest Deployment Plan shows, as predicted, response time did increase, but the overall impact is minimal," Cummings wrote. "In fiscal year 2008-2009, prior to any budget cuts, LAFD arrived on scene to an advanced life support call in an average time of four minutes 41 seconds. Under our new plan, the average time is just four seconds longer, four minutes 45 seconds."

Fire departments nationwide are being asked about their response times in the wake of similar cuts, according to Cummings' message, which said LAFD still maintains response times recommended by the National Fire Protection Association.

He explained that LAFD shifted in 2009 to a new method for calculating response times and performance. The method aims for less than five minutes. "When responding to a structure fire, the NFPA allows firefighters an extra 20 seconds in which to don their gear, providing a guideline of five minutes and 20 seconds to reach the scene. Recent data show the LAFD arrives on scene on average in three minutes and 55 seconds; only two seconds slower than units arrived prior to the new Deployment Plan," he wrote. "The Los Angeles Fire Department monitors its response times on a daily basis and makes changes as necessary to meet demand in different areas when calls for service increase. The Department has not misled the public or city leaders and in fact has been transparent in its efforts to provide accurate response time information. I welcome anyone to review our data and compare us with other departments across the region and country."

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