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Wealthy L.A. areas get slowest 911 service [Google+ hangout]

November 15, 2012 |  8:59 am

This post has been corrected. See below for details.

The Times' Ben Welsh and Kate Linthicum will join city editor Shelby Grad at 10:45 a.m. to discuss LAFD response times across Los Angeles. The wait for 911 medical aid varies dramatically across the city, with the longest waits for many of the city's most exclusive neighborhoods, according to a Times investigation.

Controversy over the Los Angeles Fire Department's response times erupted in March after The Times reported that fire officials admitted publishing incorrect data making it appear rescuers arrived at emergencies faster than they actually did.

The Times has followed up with a series of investigative stories using the California Public Records Act and groundbreaking data analysis that has uncovered deep-rooted problems in a safety net millions of Angelenos rely on when they dial 911.

INTERACTIVE: Check response times in your L.A. neighborhood

From Welsh, Linthicum and Times reporter Robert Lopez's Thursday story:

Under national standards adopted by the Los Angeles Fire Department, rescuers are supposed to arrive within six minutes to almost all medical emergencies. But the Times analysis found that in affluent hillside communities stretching from Griffith Park to Pacific Palisades, firefighters failed to hit that mark nearly 85% of the time.

In contrast, rescuers beat the six-minute standard in most of their responses in the more densely populated neighborhoods in and around downtown, where 911 calls are more frequent and the department deploys more resources.

The disparities were also seen in cases of cardiac arrest, one of the most time-sensitive emergencies; brain damage can begin just four minutes after the heart stops beating. Over the last five years, cardiac arrest responses to incidents in Bel-Air have been twice as long as those in the Westlake neighborhood surrounding MacArthur Park, where rescuers arrived on average in just over five minutes.

The Fire Department's 911 response record is being closely scrutinized by auditors, fire commissioners and elected officials. In March, top commanders acknowledged the agency had for years been producing performance reports that overstated how quickly rescuers were reaching victims in need.

The Times investigation is the first independent, block-by-block analysis of how long it takes LAFD units to reach victims after the agency picks up a 911 call. The findings reinforce the obvious risks of living in L.A.'s scenic and desirable canyon enclaves, where wildfires and mudslides are a perennial concern and narrow and winding roads can slow rescue vehicles.

[For the Record, 12:50 p.m., Nov. 16: An earlier version of this post incorrectly referred to the LAPD in the first paragraph. The correct agency is the Los Angeles Fire Department.]

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