Eagle Rock and Echo Park medical emergencies illustrate fire department dispatch problems

Photo by jondoeforty1/Flickr

The L.A. Times today reported that the Los Angeles Fire Department takes much longer to dispatch firefighters to medical and other emergencies than national standards recommend. When it comes to responding to a medical emergency, a few seconds let alone minutes can make a huge difference. In the case of Javier Ortiz, an Echo Park man who suffered a fatal heart attack in his back yard, firefighters were dispatched about 2 minutes and 48 seconds after the 911 call was received – much longer than the one minute standard.  After Scott Wilson, the 89-year-old founder of Northeast Tree fell from a ladder in his Eagle Rock home last November, a dispatcher took three minutes to send a crew after asking Robin Robinson, a friend who called 911, a series of questions. Said the Times of Robinson:

She began to wonder what was taking firefighters so long. “I would have been here by now,” she remembers thinking.

Wilson died a few days later in a hospital. The Times story said it’s not clear why LAFD takes longer to dispatch crews or whether Ortiz or Wilson would have survived if paramedics had been sent sooner. However, it notes that the LAFD has fallen further behind in meeting the one-minute dispatch standard. In 2011, only 15% of medical calls were dispatched within a minute. Five years ago 38% of calls were dispatched.


  1. This sounds pretty unacceptable. Hopefully there’s some accounting for this gross level of incompetence? Let’s see who just passes the buck…

  2. Scary. I know the dispatchers need to be thorough, but they also need to be fast. Though I suspect a huge part of the problem is all the fools who call 911 for BS non-emergencies.

  3. When i got mugged two years ago i called 911 and was told all the lines were busy,to please call back.i called three times and gave up.
    Eventually i had to walk back to the bar i was at where the bar manager called the sargent on duty directly,thank goodness i wasnt stabbed or shot.

  4. I heard last year LAFD was to receive 50million dollar budget,wonder if Terrarazzas figured in dispatch.?

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