Firefighting, Legal

Los Angeles Fire Department Puts Twitter Feed on Hiatus

UPDATE, Friday, December 13, 2013: In a rapid reversal, the Los Angeles Fire Department announced Thursday it would resume publishing details about the department’s response to life-and-death emergencies via social media and again release 911 audio recordings and database records that capture its performance.

ORIGINAL STORY, December 12, 2013: The Los Angeles Fire Department put its social media accounts on “hiatus” and announced it was refusing access to 911 audio recordings and database records that document the department’s response to life-and-death medical emergencies, reports The Los Angeles Times.

Fire officials said the change in policy was the result of a new interpretation of a 1996 federal healthcare privacy law by city attorneys, who now say it should shield the release of all information related to medical rescues, including the response times that report how long rescuers take to reach Angelenos requesting help.

“We’ve been told by powers that be that if we provide that information we are in violation of federal law,” said Battalion Chief Stephen Ruda, an LAFD spokesman.

The change is an about-face for the city department, which had routinely published details of responses to 911 calls via an array of social media, including a Twitter account that has more than 34,000 followers.

It also marks a major reduction in the information the department will release in response to requests for information by the media and the public under the California Public Records Act. In the past, the LAFD would release 911 audio recordings as well as data detailing how quickly rescuers arrived at the scene, redacting only limited information such as the names of victims and callers.

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