911 Response Times Continue to Rise with Deadly Results in L.A.

LAFD paramedics say response times are lagging with fatal consequences as dept. chief admits urgent need to “do better” on 911 calls

In the face of emergency, the amount of time it takes for paramedics to arrive on the scene to administer aid can mean life or death. But Los Angeles Fire Department paramedics are now saying it may take them a lot longer to get to you than you assume.

“The truth is you don’t have the ambulance service, the EMS service that you think you have,” one paramedic, who chose to remain anonymous, told FoxLA. “Our average response time should be anywhere from three to four minutes; 10 minutes, you’re lucky. Fifteen is common, and 20 is going to be the norm.”

A number of factors are contributing to the growing crisis. There’s the decrease in staffing levels coinciding with an increase in call volume, the dwindling number of fire stations actually stocked with ambulances, and even the fear of retaliation that previously influenced a culture of silence for paramedics who have otherwise thought of speaking publicly to air their concerns. 

Though LAFD Fire Chief and paramedic Kristin Crowley told FOX that deep dives are underway in order to better understand how response times could be improved moving forward, some families are already reeling from the consequences of the LAFD’s late arrivals. Michael Davis, a 51-year-old husband and father, died after suffering a heart attack and waiting approximately 15 minutes for paramedics following his family’s initial 911 call. “I’m constantly thinking about it, should I have done something different,” said Davis’ wife, Carin Bannos. “Should I have taken him myself to the hospital?” 

Part of the solution, according to Crowley, may lie in embracing emergency-hire paramedics to prepare for an incoming tidal wave of around 300 personnel retirements, an exodus that could certainly exacerbate the already severe staffing shortage. “Nowadays, daily, we are dispatched to 1,500 emergencies, & about 600 are transports,” Crowley Tweeted earlier this month. “With 106 fire stations spanning the city, we will continue to build this next generation & new era of LAFD together.”

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