FIREFIGHTERS AND POLICE GET SOME crazy calls, but it's the dispatchers and call takers that get all the crazy calls. The Waukesha, Wisconsin, emergency call center is currently "king of the hill" for crazy calls for this one that came in over the phone lines Sunday.
Benjamin Duddles, 41, called the emergency center at 4:21 am requesting that the police come to his house and remove a woman sleeping in his bed that was "snoring like a train" and keeping him awake. The police responded and handled it professionally as indicated in their official report:
It just doesn't pay to have Cuddles with Duddles. The Smoking Gun has the STORY.
A BILLINGS, MONTANA, WOMAN was tossed into the slammer last week after she called 9-1-1 to get someone to help her walk from her car into the house. The policeman who responded helped her all right….. he walked her directly to jail without passing GO.
(Carol) Omeara, 55, was arrested Tuesday (Oct. 8) at about 10:40 p.m. after a police dispatcher received a call from a woman who said she could not get out of her vehicle, which was parked outside her residence on South 29th Street.
When asked if she was having a medical or mechanical issue, the caller said, `No, I'm just too damn drunk,' court records state.
An officer said he found Omeara inside the vehicle, which was parked about two feet from the curb. The woman reportedly told the officer she had been at a Billings bar for about five hours, had driven home but had been sitting in her car in front of her home for about four hours.
After telling the officer that she had consumed a pint of vodka, she voluntarily took a breath test that showed a blood alcohol level of 0.31%, nearly four times the legal limit. She was charged with what turned out to be her 4th drunk driving offense.
COMMUTERS IN SOUTH OTTAWA, ONTARIO, were caught in a horrifying collision this morning (Wednesday) when their double-decker bus drove through a lowered crossing gate at a railroad crossing and collided with a VIA Rail passenger train.
Pedwell / Canadian Press
The crash happened just before 9 am. So far the Ottawa Fire Department has confirmed five fatalities, all of which are still on the bus except any that might have been in the front where the driver's seat was located. The first 7-10 feet of the bus has been shorn off by the wreck.
The paramedic units have been triaging and transporting dozens of victims but it is too early to learn how many have been transported or the severity of the injuries.
All news services are reporting that the bus drove through the lowered guard despite the passengers screaming to the driver that a train was approaching. The bus struck the 3rd or 4th railcar leading to the train's derailment as well. Photos from the scene show definite damage on the side of the locomotive indicating a head-to-head collision.
The train was slowing down to stop at a nearby station and subsequently nobody on the train was reported to be injured in early reports.
Authorities said a total of 31 injured people were transported to area hospitals, including the 11 they described as critically injured. They said five people died at the scene and one person died in hospital.
Pauline Tam, a spokeswoman with the Ottawa Hospital, said that at least three people in critical condition had been transported to her hospital's facilities. Calline Au, a spokeswoman at the Queensway Carleton Hospital, said her hospital had admitted another four patients, two of which required surgery for their injuries.
CTV News in an update is reporting:
Passengers who were aboard the OC Transpo bus were reported to have been screaming at the driver to "stop" as the vehicle drove through a marked barrier at a level crossing in the city’s southwest end.
"All of a sudden I heard a scream and I looked up," bus passenger Rebecca Guilbeault told CTV News in an interview at the site of the crash. "(People) were shouting 'stop, stop' and then as I looked up, the bus was coming into contact with the gate."
She said the front of the bus "impacted at once" and the passengers "flew" forward.
According to Dr. Andrew Falconer, the Queensway Carleton Hospital Chief of Staff, some of the injured from the crash suffered painful leg fractures. "They are really painful. This was a very traumatizing experience for them so there’s a lot of emotional upsets which is completely understandable," Dr. Falconer told CTV News Channel on Wednesday.
CTV News has more photo galleries, updates and videos HERE.
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An early video report from CTV via CNN:
CTV has just posted another video update:
Update #4 – 5:30 pm:
The Ottawa emergency services dispatch has released an edited tape of the initial dispatch and the first-arriving units' situation reports. Click on the Play button to listen.
"Upgrade this to a mass casualty… I have about six code blacks and at least three, or four, code fours, on the ground."
WE HAVE MORE TO REPORT on yesterday's vacant warehouse fire that the Chicago FD called their "largest fire in several years." See yesterday's Firegeezer report HERE. The spectacular sub-freezing incident has generated nationwide interest not only for its size, but for the fascinating views of a large fire building shrouded in ice.
Many of the units are still on the scene and earlier this morning there was a large rekindle in the center of the building. WMAQ-TV tells us:
The fire that lit up Chicago skies Tuesday night and consumed a third of the city's fire department rekindled Thursday morning.
Sky 5 images of the abandoned warehouse at 37th Street and Ashland Avenue in Bridgeport showed flames again shooting through the roof and smoke pouring south as fire equipment gathered at the building. The flames began again just before 6 a.m.
Chicago Fire officials called it a "significant rekindle" that they were expecting with crews already on the scene. Because the fire rekindled at the center of the building, firefighters are defensively battling the blaze at the perimeter. A rarely used "deluge unit" was brought in to help douse the fire.
As you have come to expect, the best photographs of the incident are those found at the ChicagoAreaFire website. Master photogs. Steve Reddick, Tim Olk, Josh Boyajian, Jeff Rudolph, and Larry Shapiro have posted a great collection of pics that you will want to view.
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Click on the six parts posted so far HERE, HERE, HERE, HERE (all audio), HERE, and HERE. Later this evening check back to their WEBSITE HERE for any additions that will be posted during the day. Just in: Larry Shapiro's 149-image gallery HERE.
Chicago's Radioman, Dave Weaver has posted the complete radio traffic from the CFD. Follow these links for some dispatch report:
The first generation of mobile data computers required the officer or operator to push a button to indicate status of the company:
Enroute, On Scene, Available On Radio (AOR), Available In Quarters (AIQ)
(Clark Martin photo via Chris Fox)
There was a shock of recognition while visiting a San Francisco fire station. A large sign on the alarm room door asked "R U AIQ?" – I knew exactly what it meant.
Your location was identified by the engine company first due district that was entered by the company officer. The computer-aided dispatch (CAD) program would send the nearest units based on their engine first due location.
"I AM CLOSER"
Some departments would experience a lot of radio chatter when a potential working fire was dispatched. Companies not assigned to the incident would announce that they were closer to the incident than the company assigned.
The MDTs reduced radio chatter. But not the inherent desire to go where the action is.
It probably took 90 seconds for a firefighter to figure out how to manipulate the first MDT to get on the call by updating their location well before they were in that district.
I remember running to the EMS supervisor buggy after hearing a first due engine reporting "smoke in the sky" as they pulled out of their house. I quickly changed my status from AIQ at 14 to AOR in 32 – while sitting on 14's front ramp. Just in time to be part of a second alarm assignment to a commercial fire.
In that era, dispatch protocol assigned one ems supervisor to second alarm structure fires. One of the few opportunities to smell smoke. I ran the rehab sector.
It did not always work to your favor.
Central Library Fire
Los Angeles had a major emergency at the Central Library. Dispatched at 10:52 am, the April 29, 1986, fire was not declared under control until 6:30 pm.
One of the engine companies that was on the street but not assigned to the incident went AOR in Station 3's district, the first due company to the fire.
It was quite a long-nosed stretch, as they would need to pass two fire stations before entering 3's district.
As soon as the officer entered that they were AOR in district 03 they were dispatched … to a medical emergency two blocks from the library fire. First of many ems first-responder runs for that company all around the library fire.
Updated Every 10 Seconds
The Houston Fire Department was an early adopter of Automatic Vehicle Locator (AVL) technology and linking unit coordinates with the CAD and digitized mapping software. It would not send a fire company on moderate-to-minor ems incidents if an ambulance would arrive first. If the ambulance would arrive two or more minutes after the nearest fire company, the fire company would be dispatched to provide medical first response.
End of first due districts?
Fifty years ago most fire companies would rarely travel beyond their third due district – the geographical area where they would be the third arriving engine if all units were in their quarters.
Today fire companies are on the road more, travelling to farther places and engaged in a wider variety of activities. What used to be their exclusive turf is handled by other companies because the first due engine is on a medical assist or hazardous condition investigation.
What does that mean when considering area familiarization?
Anyone developed a way to "long-nose" an AVL system?
The Deputy Commissioner of the London Fire Brigade, Rita Dexter thinks there is a Tweet in your future if you need help. Quoting that there are a billion people worldwide using Facebook and a half-billion connected to Twitter, she wants to look at ways to introduce them to the emergency dispatch system.
"When it was first set up in 1935, people said that dialling 999 to report emergencies would never work. Today BT handles over 30 million emergency calls each year," she said. "It’s time to look at new ways for people to report emergencies quickly and efficiently and social media could provide the answer in the future."
The Brigade would be the first emergency service in the UK to look into how apps, social media and micro-blogging sites, like Twitter, could be used by the public to report emergencies. It said it aims to work with the Government and other blue light services, such as the Met Police and London Ambulance Service, to establish whether the idea could become a reality and the extent to which social media might be used to report emergencies.
Earlier this year a report from Ofcom suggested that:
For the first time text-based communications are surpassing traditional phone calls or meeting face to face as the most frequent ways of keeping in touch for UK adults.
Traditional forms of communication are declining in popularity, with the overall time people spend talking on the phone falling by five per cent in 2011.
One in five adults in the UK now uses a smart phone.
TNW News writes further:
Reporting incidents using short messaging services appears to be a plan that many emergency services all over the world are looking to offer. In the US, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced that the four major US mobile operators – AT&T, Verizon, Sprint and T-Mobile – have all agreed to roll out text-to-911 technology in 2013, making it available to all by May 15, 2014.
With BT handling over 30 million emergency calls a year, the London Fire Brigade believes it is "time to look at new ways for people to report emergencies quickly and efficiently and social media could provide the answer in the future."
The firefighters union is skeptical. Ian Leahair a spokesman for the Fire Brigades Union, told the press: "It is a ludicrous idea. It will inevitably lead to more hoax calls."
By now everyone has been exposed to the full tv coverage of
today's horrific tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut.
There is nothing more to be said or added to it, at least by this blogger.
Dave Weaver, aka Radioman911 has sent us this unedited transcription of the
police and fire radio frequencies of the first two hours of the incident. Many will find it
to be educational from a rescuer's viewpoint or an officer's size-up observation.
Hey, Ma! My promotion to "Balloonist" Came Through!
FROM THE "IT LOOKS GOOD ON PAPER" department comes another brilliant idea from a government agency, this time the Federal Communications Commission. And you know all about "great ideas" that bubble up from government agencies. The problem they want to address is the failure of the wireless telephone and communications services after hurricanes breeze through and leave their cell towers non-functioning for whatever reasons. Somebody has sold them on the notion that a remedy would be to dangle wireless antennae from balloons or maybe trailing behind drones.
Gerry Smith, the Tech Column writer for Huffington Post penned:
The Federal Communications Commission is exploring the use of such airborne technology to restore communications after disasters. Beaming 3G or Wi-Fi signals from the sky may be especially useful to emergency responders in the immediate aftermath of a hurricane, when repair crews are unable reach damaged equipment because roads and bridges are impassible, experts said.
"It sounds futuristic, but the technology is absolutely there," said Daniel M. Devasirvatham, a chief technology officer at Science Applications International Corp.
This spring, the Federal Communications Commission asked for public comments on the potential for deploying wireless networks via small drones or weather balloons, saying it could "further strengthen and enhance the security and reliability of the nation's communications infrastructure."
"We know this technology can work," FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said in a statement in May. Genachowski added it "would have been remarkably useful" after Hurricane Katrina, when dozens of 911 call centers were inoperable and more than 3 million customers lost telephone service.
It goes without saying that a large percentage of those 3 million victims also lost their cell phones as well, so they were unable to call for pizza delivery anyway. Mr. Smith goes on to tell us that the military has used this technology to set up temporary networks in remote combat zones, and FEMA has supposedly used it to dangle broadband antennae for internet connections to be used by wildland firefighters and a few other temporary needs of emergency crews.
But when it comes to integrating the various radio signals of compteting cellphone providers, well, you have problems. But the ballooon makers and drone builders say they can do it, yeah!
Look at both sides of the controversy by reading the entire, well-written article in the HuffPost HERE.
This has been tried before, by the way.
Thanks to Mark D. for dangling this bit of science overhead for us.
THE DETROIT, MICHIGAN, EMERGENCY DISPATCH CENTER was evacuated just before noon today as the building was filling up with "natural gas" fumes. The employees inside where the city's police, fire, and EMS dispatchers and call-takers work, suddenly began feeling nauseous and light-headed.
Fire, EMS, and utility crews were dispatched to the scene and within a half-hour they had traced the source back to a nearby electric substation. They have not yet disclosed what was generating the fumes, but a favorable wind was directing them to the roof of the dispatch center where the intake for the air-handling system was picking them up and sending the fumes throughout the building.
Dispatch operations were interrupted for about ten minutes before being rerouted to another site in the east side of the city where the 3-1-1 calls are handled. At the time of this post the employees were still not allowed back inside while it is being aired out.
FOUR MEDFORD, MASSACHUSETTS, FIREFIGHTERS have been given disciplinary actions for their parts in a dispatching error on July 13 in which a medical patient died.
The call was received shortly after midnight while the station crew was asleep. The fire alarm operator should have toned out the engine company, but instead he only dispatched them over the radio. In Medford each onduty FF has their own radio that, according to the FD Rules, "….serves as a fail-safe in the event other forms of communication are off line." However in this incident, the radios were turned down too low to be heard.
The police and the city's ambulance service Armstrong Ambulance responded and were on the scene. For some reason, the fire alarm operator logged in that the FD was also on the scene when they weren't.
It was announced by the fire chief's office yesterday that the alarm operator has been suspended without pay for two weeks. The three firefighters were given written reprimands.
The president of the firefighters Local issued a statement that said, "The Medford firefighters take this issue very seriously. The firefighters involved are devastated. We are committed to working with the department to ensure this never happens again."
The London Fire Brigade has said this morning that firefighters in south London have saved the lives of seven people after a fire broke out at a block of flats.
The blaze broke out in a four storey block of flats on Campshill Road in Lewisham, SE13, which is in south east London.
Firefighters rescued five women, one child, and one baby, and the Brigade’s control officers gave life saving advice over the phone to those inside the flats.
Station Manager Ziggy Hurrion is based at the Brigade’s headquarters in Southwark, he was at the scene and said:
“Seven lives were saved in the early hours of this morning due to the quick thinking actions of our staff.
“Both our control officers, who handled the 999 calls from those inside the flats, and the brave actions of our firefighters, ensured that five women and two children were safely rescued from the blaze. They were all heroes this morning.
“Ambulance crews and police officers also did a great job at what was undoubtedly a challenging incident for all who attended.
“Nine people were taken to hospital and fortunately, at this stage, we don’t believe anyone was seriously injured. I can’t praise the actions of our staff enough as this incident could easily have ended in tragedy.”
A total of nine people were taken to hospital by ambulance.
In addition to those who were rescued, four people jumped from the first floor of the building before firefighters arrived on the scene. The four, two men and two women, were amongst the nine people taken to hospital by ambulance. The remaining five were suffering from smoke inhalation.
A further woman and baby were treated on the scene by crews from London Ambulance Service.
Met Police officers evacuated 31 additional people from the building. It’s thought they are now being looked after by staff from Lewisham Council.
Parts of the ground, first, second and third floors of the four storey building were damaged by fire. The Brigade’s fire investigators are carrying out a thorough investigation with Met Police officers to establish how the blaze started.
The Brigade was called at 0229 and the fire was under control by 0444.
Six fire engines and around 30 firefighters attended the incident. They were from Lewisham, Forest Hill, Lee Green, Downham and Deptford fire stations.
The London Fire Brigade’s advice on how to escape from a fire includes the following:
• Close any doors which are open, and only open the doors you need to go through. This will help to stop the fire spreading so rapidly.
• Get everyone out as quickly as possible and call 999.
• Never stop to collect valuables and never go back inside. If there is still someone inside, tell firefighters when they arrive – they will be able to find the person quicker and more safely than you.
The Brigade offers further advice on what to do if a fire breaks out on it’s website.
Operational information about the fire
Nine people were rescued in total:
• A woman and child were rescued from the third floor of the building by firefighters using a hydraulic platform (like a cherry picker)
• A woman and child were rescued by fire crews using a ladder from the first floor
• Another woman was rescued from the second floor via a ladder
• Two women were rescued by firefighters wearing breathing apparatus from the ground floor of the building
Four people, two men and two women, jumped from the first floor of the building.
Those requiring medical treatment:
• A total of nine people were taken to hospital
• Two women and two men were taken to hospital with fall injuries, having jumped from the first floor of the building.
• A further five were taken to hospital by ambulance and were suffering from smoke inhalation.
• A further woman and child were treated on the scene for smoke inhalation
Thirty one people were evacuated from the building by police officers.
Last year one of the Pinnacle attendees was quoted to say it was ”the most innovative and thought-provoking event of the year.” This year I will have to admit that this truly has been one of the best conferences I have attended in a while for the quality of the discussions and relationships it has initiated. From the pre-conference power seminars to the keynote and concurrent general sessions, attendees have consistently been challenged with new ideas relating to the future direction and operations of EMS.
Dale has been tweeting while attending some of the sessions. Follow @hp_ems.
Did I mention that the Pinnacle conferences are held at great venues?
Lurching Leaps of Technology
The unexpected idea for me was that the next generation 9-1-1 dispatch center may be a huge regional center, equipped with laptops linked to a commercial mapping service (Google Maps, MapPoint, Bing, etc,).
Fascinated at the description of the different operating philosophy of law enforcement, fire and ems dispatch. Law enforcement is concerned with documentation towards litigation, not response times.
An EMS Simulation Center like no other
Aurora Community College has built a high fidelity ems simulation center utilized for an EMS competition run by American Medical Response. Got a great tour as the scenarios were setting up Sunday morning. Will be attending a Friday presentation by Pony Anderson describing the details of the facility.
In the last 6 years we've been called out to a chimp in a chimney, an adult hamster in a disabled lift, a kitten with its head stuck in a bongo drum, a dog stuck in a wheelchair … the list goes on & on.
If you see an animal stuck somewhere, always call the Rspca (Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) for advice instead of dialling 999.
Mike "FossilMedic" Ward … wondering how large an adult hamster gets
FAMED DISPATCH SCANNER AND RECORDIST "RADIOMAN" has shed his anonymnity. After 3+ years of monitoring and live-streaming fire activity in the greater Chicago area, he has decided to let the masses know his real moniker is Dave Weaver.
Dave has a great service set up for anybody interested in emergency incidents by webcasting the dispatch and working channels of fire incidents. He's very efficient, too. When you log on to http://justin.tv/radioman911 you will notice right away that there are separate channels coming out of each of your computer stereo speakers. More coverage for you that way. From his website he tells us:
The feed is based in Chicago and uses a combination of remote receive sites to enhance our range and provide the best wide area coverage possible. We monitor fire dispatches from all across Chicagoland. Site supporters volunteer their time to the listener community by posting info and updates about major fires and incidents.
Radioman911.com is a live stereo mix monitoring the Chicago Fire Department and every FD within 36 neighboring counties across 4 states. (Except Aurora, Hammond, and Naperville) We cover all mutual aid and interop channels including IFERN and all firegrounds.
The feed consists of 5 radios located in downtown Chicago and 3 located in the far suburbs. Incident information is provided on the incident board in CAD style by volunteer supporters of the site.
Radioman911.com streams high quality 128k stereo audio along with a 200k video display that shows 6 of the 8 radios that make up the mix. Radios and scanners in the mix full time are located in 5 locations; Radioman911 HQ in Chicago's West Town neighborhood, 1000ft up in the John Hancock Center, 250ft up on towers in both DeKalb and Joliet, and from rooftops in Lansing and St. Charles. Additional rooftop receive sites are located in Summit and Midlothian. A special thank you goes to our remote feed hosts who improve our reception and extend our coverage area.
Now you know that he's not some dweeb with a couple of Radio Shack portable scanners duct-taped to a board. He was featured on a Channel 7, WLS-TV news report last week covering the violent NATO protests in downtown Chicago.
Dave's first 15 minutes of fame are shown in this tv report and he makes his appearance at the 0:58 mark. Go ahead and watch the entire 4:13 of the video, it's a good report:
He tells us: All 4 days are great listening and many include video to reference the activities being handled. But day 3 is some of the most incredible audio that we have ever streamed on Radioman911.com and was featured on the ABC7 Chicago 10 PM News.
So get your popcorn, sit back and listen, and say "Hi" to Dave. (just click on the links)
A MONTGOMERY COUNTY, MARYLAND, FIRE and Rescue dispatcher had to be relieved on the job last month when he fell asleep during an emergency call. The unidentified Communications Clerk was reportedly 17 hours into a 24-hour overtime shift when his fatigue took over.
Montgomery County Emergency Communications Center (photo by Bordon)
NBC4 is reporting the story and tells us:
Just after midnight on April 4, a Montgomery County woman called 911 because her husband was having trouble breathing and was starting to turn blue.
Following protocol, a 911 call-taker answers and quickly transfers the woman to a dispatcher. He was supposed to send an ambulance.
But in the 911 recording call obtained by the News4 I-Team, all you can hear is silence in response to the woman’s repeated hellos. Caller: "Hello? Hello? Hello?"
Realizing something isn't right, the original call-taker breaks in. 911 Call-Taker: "OK, hold on one second ma'am. Let me try to get them on the line again."
Caller: "OK. Oh."
Sleeping Dispatcher: ((Snore))
The snores get louder as a new dispatcher tries to help the woman.
2nd Dispatcher: "Put one hand on his forehand, the other hand underneath his neck and tilt his head back."
Sleeping Dispatcher: ((Snore))
In the recording, the second dispatcher and the woman he was trying to help are both confused by the snoring. The second dispatcher repeatedly asked if the woman’s husband was making the noise.
Listen to the tape recording of the call:
The original tape has at least 18 snores recorded on it. The dispatcher was immediately relieved from duty and put on paid admin. leave.
Read the entire transcript and story from NBC4 HERE.
Anybody Besides the Fire Chief and Mayor Surprised at This?
THE LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA, CONTROLLER Wendy Greul released the report yesterday of an audit her department conducted into the Fire Department's response times. Using a 2-year baseline from June 2007 to July 2009, the auditors found that after the fire station closings and rotating brownouts took place in July of last year, the response times for ambulance calls increased an average 12 seconds citywide and as much as 20 seconds in certain areas including the San Fernando Valley. The Daily Newsreports:
The report found response times for emergency medical calls increased an average of 12 seconds to four minutes, 57 seconds. However, the response time to fires and non-medical emergencies dropped about 21 seconds — also to four minutes, 57 seconds.
Pat McOsker, president of the United Firefighters of Los Angeles City, said the audit confirms his warnings over the past several years.
"You cannot cut the department by the 15 percent it has been cut and not have an impact," McOsker said. "In emergencies, seconds count and we have a system that delays the response."
Not to be overlooked in the report is this observation by the Controller:
She also expressed concern about the quality of the department's response time data, noting that about one-third of the incidents reviewed were not coded properly and it was unclear whether they were emergency or non-emergency calls.
"It's unacceptable that the LAFD has not been able to accurately track its emergency response times," Greuel said, adding she hoped the audit would lay the groundwork for city officials to make improvements.
In her report Greuel also pointed out that 650,000 of the 1.9 million incident reports they reviewed were coded "unclearly" rendering their study unable to be compared with the NFPA response standards.
Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, left, and Fire Chief Brian Cummings
discuss response times and deployment at a March 13 news conference.
(Barbara Davidson, Los Angeles Times / March 13, 2012)
It has been pointed out that part of the problem is created at the dispatch center where calls are taking longer to be processed before the alarm is dispatched. Again from the Daily News:
(Local President) McOsker said part of the problem is dispatchers are required to go through a list of more than 20 questions before an emergency call is placed with paramedics. The protocol was developed to try to reduce the number of calls made for nonemergencies.
"There was a time that once they determined the nature of the emergency, they could send a unit out," McOsker said. "Now, they have to go through the entire list of questions before they send anyone to the call."
Using their own resources to analyze the raw data, the Los Angeles Times has concluded:
(Times staff writer Ben) Welsh crunched data from more than 1 million dispatches from the department's database and found that the Fire Department falls far short of the standard that rescue units be alerted within one minute on 90% of 911 calls. And average call-processing time has increased, most notably for medical calls, which account for the overwhelming majority of responses.
Five years ago firefighters were dispatched to medical calls within a minute 38% of time, the analysis found. By 2011, that number dropped to 15%.
The Times also found that in the more than 250,000 medical dispatches last year, the department took 75% longer, on average, than the national standard.
You can read the entire 46-page Controller's report (.pdf file) HERE.
On March 18 Firegeezer reported on the surprising announcement that LAFD had been using phony numbers to calculate their response times. Read that posting HERE where we also addressed the vehicle maintenance problems that are affecting the response times as well.
It was also last March when McOsker opined: "This department is being held together with bubble gum, baling wire and duct tape."
THE VIGOROUS CAMPAIGN FOR MAYOR of Los Angeles (California) is exposing more failures of the City Council and the Mayor. Among the agencies which are coming up short is the Fire Department. That fine agency has been undermined by the current mayor who has slashed the FD budget by 16% in recent years, instituted rotating station brown-outs, and eliminated units from one-fourth of the city's 106 fire stations. All this time the mayor and Fire Chief Brian Cummings have been saying that the department is doing okay despite the large cuts.
Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, left, and Fire Chief Brian Cummings
discuss response times and deployment at a March 13 news conference.
(Barbara Davidson, Los Angeles Times / March 13, 2012)
But one of their "proofs" of success, the average response times were found to be based on jiggered numbers and are really noticably slower than they had admitted to. (See the Firegeezer article from March 11, LAFD Admits Inflating Response Times Favorably HERE.) As more people from the political opposition and reporters from the local press start looking behind the facade, even more deception is being exposed. Yesterday (Saturday) a columnist for the Los Angeles Times unloaded on the mayor and fire chief for the deterioration of the FD since they have taken control. Some quotes from Stephen Lopez's detailed commentary indicate that all might not be well in the city:
Nobody was lying, we're told. But the Fire Department has now switched to a more accurate formula for tracking response times.
How hard can this be? Your house is on fire, you call the Fire Department, and they show up in either four minutes, five, six, 10, whatever. Does it have to be more complicated than that?
It was on the basis of the rosier information that the mayor and council agreed to big cuts. Now Fire Chief Brian Cummings admits the department should have made clear that it had switched to a different formula, and both he and Villaraigosa tell us both formulas were accurate.
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They also said public safety hasn't been compromised by the mothballing of equipment as part of a plan to save $200 million over three years. How could it not be compromised?
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"This department is being held together with bubble gum, baling wire and duct tape," says Pat McOsker, president of United Firefighters of Los Angeles City.
"Forty percent of the time we are not getting there in time to prevent brain death," said McOsker, referring to the length of time it generally takes for someone who's not breathing to suffer lasting injury.
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Mid-City resident Mike Eveloff has been doing his own spade work, demanding Fire Department records and crunching numbers. When you remove equipment from service and shutter or partially shutter fire stations, you're playing a game of Russian roulette, said Eveloff.
"You see them on longer and longer runs because they don't have as many firefighters. As an example, my station, 92, they were sent 14 miles away to the eastern part of Hollywood with red lights and siren. It's happening all the time," said Eveloff.
"If you look into the eyes of these guys, they are beat to death."
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"When I first came on, retirement was a sad day for the retiree. Now it seems like the retiree can't leave soon enough."
Apparently the shell game has extended into the maintenance division. A combination of harder usage on the trucks coupled with a 30% reduction in the number of mechanics has left the fleet shaky and unreliable as more reserve apparatus are being used while normal repairs are backlogged as much as a month. Now the reserve fleet is failing from the excess work.
The LA Times has followed up with a separate article about the falling-apart of the emergency dispatch center. They tell about a day recently where a woman had her hand mangled in a piece of machinery and had to wait 45 minutes before any help arrived because the dispatch system had just failed:
The dismemberment occurred March 7, when a brief equipment failure left dispatchers unable to alert fire stations. At a firehouse in Harbor Gateway near Torrance, just a mile from the bleeding woman, the alarms never rang, according to firefighters.
"I was in horrible, horrible pain," said Wafer, 36, who was later told by a doctor that too much time had elapsed to reattach her finger.
Firegeezer comments: I find it amazing that nobody in that huge dispatch center had the presence of mind to call the nearest station by land line and get a unit started right away. Don't you have to take a test or something in order to work there?
Read the detailed article on problems at the 9-1-1 center HERE.
Firegeezer adds further: Having observed the LA Times' past behavior which includes dubious reporting by partial disclosure of facts and events, I recommend that we pause and give the FD time to get back to work on Monday and see if they address these charges.
THE DENVER, COLORADO, FIRE DEPARTMENT is in damage-control after a call-taker in the emergency dispatch center decided to disregard a 9-1-1 call for a "smell of smoke" in a neighborhood. When the fire creating the smokey smell in a vacant house broke through sending flames skyward, calls started pouring in to the dispatchers and they had no choice then but to dispatch it.
KMGH-TV relates the first caller's story:
Denver resident Torry Hughes told 7NEWS he received a call from his adult son around 4 a.m. The son, who lives a block away from Hughes, told him that he was getting ready for work when he smelled smoke in the neighborhood.
Hughes said he went out to walk the dog around 5:30 a.m. when he, too, smelled the smoke. He said it was dark so he couldn't see it.
"I smelled this heavy smoke. It smelled like something burning and I knew it was not a fireplace… It smelled like a house burning, so I immediately went and called the fire department," Hughes said.
He said he told the fire dispatcher that he smelled a house burning but he didn't know where it (was) coming from.
"He told me I was the only one that had called and that they got no other calls and if I saw anything like a fire to call back," Hughes said.
It was around 7 am after daylight when people in the neighborhood noticed the fire and started calling it in. When the FD arrived they found a single-family dwelling fully involved. The house had been vacant since it had been foreclosed by a mortgage-holder, however that had been only a few days ago.
Lt. Phil Champagne, a Denver Fire Department spokesman, told Ch. 9 News "There is an investigation underway to determine the cause of the fire and also whether firefighters should have been dispatched after the 5:30 a.m. call." Champaign says the caller could not identify where the smoke was coming from. "In our defense, we get a lot of those calls," Champaign said. "It's discretionary whether we send a truck."
"Had firefighters been dispatched, it is uncertain if they would have located the building anyway," Champaign said.
Channel 9 also filed this video report:
The DFD announced that a thorough investigation will be held and corrective actions will be taken. Interestingly, the FD spokesman also told the press that the dispatchers normally decline to dispatch fire units on about 10% of their call-ins.
Firegeezer interrupts with a comment: When I was on the job, if we could smell smoke or something burning, we NEVER left until we found out where it was coming from. To brush somebody off because there was only one call (at 5 am!!) is simply inexcusable. An engine should have been sent.
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BLOOMFIELD, NEW JERSEY, FIRE CHIEF Joseph McCarthy told the Town Council yesterday (Monday) that the city's 120-yr.-old Gamewell Telegraph fire alarm system will be discontinued soon after the "proper notifications" can be made. The system was installed in 1890 and had until recently 190 boxes on street corners and inside high-risk facililties.
Bloomfield box 5595 with a police call box
attached to the back of it. (Backtaps.com photo)
NorthJersey.com reports this morning:
The devices are "sound," but the infrastructure is worn out, McCarthy said at the Bloomfield Township Council's conference meeting on Monday. "It creates a system of false protection," he said.
The township will begin removing and covering up the system in June or July, after proper notice, the fire chief said.
It would cost the township too much money to fix, and parts are already limited. Maintaining the system was easier when the township's electrical department had five employees. It has since been turned into a one-person department, McCarthy said.
Those buildings which are required to have additional fire precautions are urged to contact a private security firm, he said. (emphasis added by ed.)
Brian and I joined the volunteer fire department at the same time. At 18, he was already focused on his goal to be a physician, attending classes at the local university.
To expand his portfolio, Brian was working as a part-time emergency department technician at the flagship community hospital.
I spend Christmas Eve evening as the ambulance crewmember in charge on the VFD ambulance, Brian was working at the hospital.
It was a dry and warm day, almost hitting 60 degrees. Was above freezing that night, much warmer that the night we ran the sports car crash on the parkway (story here).
Carrying people to the hospital
Advanced First Aid was the certification required to ride as the crewmember-in-charge. Gasoline and oxygen were the two primary elements of care.
Already experienced the thrill of a 90+ mile-per-hour transport doing chest compressions in a low-top Cadillac ambulance. My shoulders were firm against the ceiling as the backboarded patient was on the stretcher. That 472 cubic inch motor was strong!
Our new Ford/Swab modular ambulance came with an advanced resuscitation tool, a Brunswick HLR 50-90 oxygen powered mechanical resuscitator. Bought a second one for the high-top Cadillac
Our experience was that the chest compressor would "walk" even with the chest and shoulder straps tight.
When the fire company responded to assist on a cardiac arrest, they would place the patient in a "Reeves" flexible stretcher.
The plunger would be further secured with triangular bandages tied to the sides of the Reeves stretcher.
The fire company prided itself on the speed and smoothness in applying the HLR machine. It was one of the skill drills frequently performed in the station.
Ambulance runs after 11 pm were dispatched over the "red phone." It was less disturbing than striking the station's tones, turning on the bunkroom lights and activating the volunteer pagers.
Fire companies were rarely dispatched with the ambulance. The ambulance would need to call for assistance once arriving at the scene. A little tricky, since none of the ambulances were provided a portable radio.
"Husband is gurgling in the bed"
That was the information dispatch gave me over the red phone at 4 am Christmas morning.
We were still responding to the incident when our fire company was toned out. The wife called back and used one of the few trigger phrases for an automatic fire company ambulance assist – cardiac arrest.
Many of the lights were on at the house and front door was open. She was doing CPR when we ran up the stairs with oxygen, suction, bag-mask-valve and aide bag.
Following the HLR protocol, we got him off the bed and into a larger room. Suctioned his airway, placed an oral airway and started two-rescuer CPR with the bag-valve mask.
By time we were in a rhythm, I could hear the faint sounds of a wailing Federal 2QB.
I assured the wife that we were doing everything possible for him, and that another crew would be arriving soon to move her husband to the ambulance.
If we had not called dispatch, or were not standing at the ambulance, the fire company assumed CPR was in progress.
Two of the guys pulled out the HLR machine and Reeves. The engine driver would re-position the ambulance for rapid departure, then set up the stretcher.
The performance was great. Smooth packaging and quick movement to the back of the Ford/Swab ambulance.
We were getting pulses with compression throughout the transport.
Once we got him on the hospital gurney, the physician looked into the wide and fixed pupils with an ophthalmoscope. The vessels radiating from the optic nerve showed coagulated blood, appearing as a railroad train.
The appearance of "box cars" in the back wall of the pupil were a grave prognosis. It was used as an indicator of death when ambulances delivered pre-paramedic cardiac arrest patients.
Ran into Brian, who was looking a little shell-shocked. This was the fourth or fifth patient he had to wheel to the morgue since 11 pm Christmas Eve.
We had done everything we knew in 1971.
In re-telling the story, I feel like Squad 10 Firefighter Johnny Gage after he "rescued" an electrocuted lineman in the two hour pilot of the Emergency show.
I wonder if there would have been a different outcome if we had an AED?
Mike "FossilMedic" Ward
If you are working, may your day be boring. I hope that it is full of food, laughter & joy.
Please spend a minute thinking about our brothers and sisters in the armed forces that are deployed in hostile, desolate or dangerous environments.
One of our loyal readers, Mark Donovan came across an industry bulletin from the Alarm Industry Communications Committee, a group of monitored alarm businesses who make their living installing home and business fire and security alarm systems. The bulletin (reprinted HERE) warns their members about a bill that is working its way through the U. S. Congress that will allow monitored alarm signals to bypass the alarm company's switchboards and go directly to the 9-1-1 dispatch center.
On the surface this looks like a pretty good idea and a pretty bad idea. The good part is that alarm signals will go to the dispatch center in a lot more timely fashion. During the year that I worked in dispatch, we were constantly confounded by alarm companies who repeatedly called the wrong fire departments to report alarms sounding, and in a high number of instances the report from the alarm company was delayed by several minutes. And I'm talking about 15 minutes or more.
Univ. of Iowa photo
The bad part is that a high percentage of monitored alarms are not true emergencies or mistaken signals. This new bill includes the so-called personal emergency devices that elderly and handicapped people wear ("I've fallen and I can't get up!"). An excerpt from the AICC bulletin reads:
The problem could well result in 9-1-1 operators being flooded with automatic sensor generated calls, from security devices, as well as Personnel Emergency Response System (PERS) calls. The alarm industry which currently screens these calls before they are forwarded to 9-1-1 centers knows from experience that the vast majority of these calls from burglar and fire alarm systems as (well as) from PERS systems do not require dispatch. The overwhelming majority of PERS calls (99%) do not require the dispatch of emergency services. In many cases the senior is seeking just to talk with someone or has inadvertently set off the alarm. Currently the alarm industry screens all these calls before they are sent to the 9-1-1 operator to determine whether emergency services need to be dispatched. On an annual basis we screen over a 100 million calls a year. Of that, the industry resolves in the high 90% without a referral to 9-1-1 operators.
There is a lot more to this issue than just that, however. The bill does not mandate the signals to go directly to the dispatch centers, but allows the localities to require it if they want to. I get the impression that the Congress is creating the legal process that will allow a variety of "new" communications, such as phone texts, videos, and other electronically-generated digital messages to be directed to 9-1-1 centers. And of course, cynical me strongly suspects that the alarm companies are trying to protect their turf and keep their own alarm centers populated and operating. My first response when I read this was to think that if they are getting 90% false calls, then they had better get their act together and either reduce the rate, or stop peddling them as "emergency" devices when they obviously aren't.
We had better get our own non-emergency response to the apparatus now and get it checked out. I'm going to send a signal to the Bunn-O-Matic and get a fresh pot started. See you back in the day room in a little while.