A review of the Los Angeles Fire Department found the agency relied on inaccurate data, which provided the public with an erroneous portrait of the department’s performance that was used to make critical staffing decisions, reports The Los Angeles Times.
While the Fire Department has acknowledged some mistakes in its data, the 32-page report found more widespread problems and delves more deeply into a series of factors that contributed to the faulty figures. Among other things, the experts found systemic flaws in a 30-year-old computerized dispatch network and a lack of adequate training for firefighters assigned to complex data analysis.
The probe was launched after department officials acknowledged earlier this year that LAFD performance reports released to City Hall leaders and the public made it appear rescuers were getting to emergencies faster than they actually were.
The task force report, scheduled to be discussed Tuesday by the Fire Commission, said the department has corrected the computer-system flaws that led to the inaccurate figures.
“The No. 1 goal was to restore confidence in the Fire Department’s statistics in the eyes of the public and city leaders,” said Fire Commissioner Alan Skobin, who helped oversee the report. “We now have the ability to identify and pull out accurate data.”
Still, the report paints a picture of a department woefully behind in using technology to help speed up emergency responses and improve efficiency by analyzing thousands of dispatch records that churn through the department’s computer system each day.
The report recommends installing GPS devices on fire units so dispatchers know their location at all times, an upgrade that has been discussed since at least 2009. That could ensure that the closest rescuers are sent to those in need.
The task force also said upgrades or replacement of the aging computer system at the heart of dispatch operations may be needed, as well as hiring professional analysts to scrutinize the data.
Some money has been set aside to help pay for the GPS upgrade and the dispatch system changes. But whether all the changes raised in the report could be funded is unclear, given that the LAFD already is projected to run a $5.2-million deficit in its current budget.
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