Why is LACoFD mutual aid so awful?

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seligman

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Why is LA County Fire so awful about requesting mutual aid resources from other agencies?

I've never seen a more inept set of dispatchers and/or protocols when a major incident takes place. They are clearly outmatched in every way possible, but instead of requesting resources from a nearby agency, maybe a mile or two away, they instead send their own resources with a 20-30 minute drive time running code 3.

Help me understand why it's so bad.
 

Firebuff66

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There could be 100s or reasons they do what they do, i have to believe with the size of the department, and that they have been around for 101 years and have 3000+ personnel that they know what they are doing
Nice that you say in your post you have no idea why it happens, and are looking for the answer, but you were really fast to blame the "inept set of dispatchers"

Happy Telecommunicators week!
 

seligman

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So you don't know why either, just attacking me for asking the question?

It's not like I named names, or mentioned specific incidents to get someone in trouble.

I should mention this opinion is shared by a number of crews I've talked to in adjacent agencies.
 

Z_DEO5

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LACoFD is one of the biggest fire agencies in California. They are the only fire agency that has every little thing and more than a fire department can have. With that being said, since I've started learning about the department in the early 90s, they have a long-standing culture of not asking other agencies for help. It's part of their culture to handle everything on their own. "canceled out of county unit" is probably the most used phrase.

But this is part of their culture. And it sounds like it always has, and it always will be. If you look at LA County fire, everything about them is unique from the rigs and the way they do things. They all have their own LA County fire way. They just don't want other fire departments coming in and causing issues or liability. We refer to this as operational, ego and LA County fire and Orange County fire have the biggest egos. There is no government oversight with this topic, so it's really up to the individual fire departments on how they wanna handle things like this.
 

Randyk4661

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I can't answer for LACo, but back in the day when Santa Ana had it's own department they would rarely call in outside help unless absolutely needed. The city would use all available city units regardless where in the city they came from first. It all came to a matter of cost to the city. Santa Ana had to pay for the outside agency to respond to the medical aid or fire call. However Santa Ana did like going to to neighboring cities as now they had to pay for Santa Ana services.

I also remember Westminster flat out refused to do mutual aid with anyone anywhere because of cost to the city. This included strike teams for wild fires. Even if they were being paid, it wasn't enough for the city. This I believe was a factor for them going to county fire later.
 

seligman

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I remember running an errand in Cerritos (years ago) when a tanker truck flipped over and burst into flames on the 5 freeway near Valley View.

LA County had something going on and 20, 35, and 49 were all busy on other calls.

There was a large black header. I was driving up Carmenita towards the 5 and the crew from Santa Fe Springs engine 83 was outside. I pulled over and pointed toward the header, and they said, yeah we know, they didn't call us. Keep in mind they were half a mile away.

I drove closer to the accident scene and LA County didn't get an engine on scene for another fifteen minutes(!) when 191 arrived from La Habra.
 

Z_DEO5

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yep until they get sued this will continue to happen but that story isn't that bad compared to the medical aids they have super long responses with the squads.
 

Eng74

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Kern County has a very good mutual aide with LACoFD. Even with all the resources they have in the AV and on the Grapevine Gorman area. They may not request help from some departments because they may not have an automatic aide agreement with the other agency. If there is not auto aide agreement then it has to go up the chain of command of the agency being requested, and sometimes by the time that happens the other LACoFD units can be there.
 
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gabrielm

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I’d want to know more about specific calls you’re referring to. But this is not an issue of “inept dispatchers.” LACoFD has pre-planned mutual aid responses for most districts. For example, structures in West Hollywood will always get LAFD E41 and Beverly Hills E1. Medical calls in 192s (La Habra) will always get Brea E1 or Fullerton E4 if squad 191 is on a call. This happens multiple times per day.

There are a number of other factors, too. One is the time delay in requesting mutual aid. A good example is the south side of 192s district. Certain areas (Harbor Blvd. & Las Riendas) are across the street from Fullerton Station 4. But if 192 is available, they won’t request Fullerton, because 192s will be on scene before Fullerton is out the door, due to the roughly three- to five-minute delay in requesting mutual aid.

Another factor is the pre-plans. For example, Fullerton has a quint near 194s district, but it’s never called for mutual aid, even in Q15 and Q28 are busy. If you have a TC trapped in 194s, you’re going to get the next LACoFD quint, even if Fullerton’s is much closer. That’s because of the mutual aid plan — not dispatcher incompetence. Just a couple of examples.
 

Randyk4661

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I’d want to know more about specific calls you’re referring to. But this is not an issue of “inept dispatchers.” LACoFD has pre-planned mutual aid responses for most districts. For example, structures in West Hollywood will always get LAFD E41 and Beverly Hills E1. Medical calls in 192s (La Habra) will always get Brea E1 or Fullerton E4 if squad 191 is on a call. This happens multiple times per day.

There are a number of other factors, too. One is the time delay in requesting mutual aid. A good example is the south side of 192s district. Certain areas (Harbor Blvd. & Las Riendas) are across the street from Fullerton Station 4. But if 192 is available, they won’t request Fullerton, because 192s will be on scene before Fullerton is out the door, due to the roughly three- to five-minute delay in requesting mutual aid.

Another factor is the pre-plans. For example, Fullerton has a quint near 194s district, but it’s never called for mutual aid, even in Q15 and Q28 are busy. If you have a TC trapped in 194s, you’re going to get the next LACoFD quint, even if Fullerton’s is much closer. That’s because of the mutual aid plan — not dispatcher incompetence. Just a couple of examples.

This is so true, dispatchers send what the computers tell them to send. It's not like 50+ years ago when the dispatcher would look up a card or microfiche to see what units to send. The computer does everything including the actual dispatch these days. That's why you hear quint 127 dispatched and on the tac channel, 51 will then tell the dispatcher they are closer and to cancel 127.

I don't know if they still do it but OCFA had GPS dispatching on their computer system. A call would come in and the computer would select the closest unit based on the units GPS location and not on whose first in area it was. This saved response times for some calls.
 

seligman

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I’d want to know more about specific calls you’re referring to. But this is not an issue of “inept dispatchers.” LACoFD has pre-planned mutual aid responses for most districts. For example, structures in West Hollywood will always get LAFD E41 and Beverly Hills E1. Medical calls in 192s (La Habra) will always get Brea E1 or Fullerton E4 if squad 191 is on a call. This happens multiple times per day.

There are a number of other factors, too. One is the time delay in requesting mutual aid. A good example is the south side of 192s district. Certain areas (Harbor Blvd. & Las Riendas) are across the street from Fullerton Station 4. But if 192 is available, they won’t request Fullerton, because 192s will be on scene before Fullerton is out the door, due to the roughly three- to five-minute delay in requesting mutual aid.

I'm glad you brought up La Habra.

You obviously know what you're talking about but you left out important distinctions. Fullerton Engine 4 only responds on calls near Harbor/Imperial or maybe at the most, Euclid/Imperial. They stay on the "south" side of La Habra. Likewise, Brea Engine 1 only goes on calls on the "east" side of La Habra. Neither department is being sent to calls on the "west" or "north" sides of La Habra when Squad 191 is busy.

This means if you are unfortunate enough to have a heart attack in those other parts of La Habra when S191 can't help, you better hope S49 can get there quick from La Mirada. If not, you are waiting on S28, S20 or maybe S118 or S119 to come over the hill.

All of this is really embarrassing in my opinion. They have an automatic aid agreement with Brea that does not limit where in the city to respond. Even with a delayed dispatch time, I'm positive Brea Engine 1 could get to anywhere in La Habra faster than S118 (Industry) or S119 (Diamond Bar).

Additionally, La Habra Heights ME771 is dispatched by LACoFD and is a working paramedic engine most days. They only send 771 to calls within that small Automatic Aid zone.

You and others on this thread are right, it is not entirely dispatcher ineptitude. I'm sorry if it sounded like I was blaming them entirely. But I think LACoFD has a lot of room for improvement brokering better arrangements with neighbor agencies, as well as improving their own policies and dispatching protocols. Same goes for elected officials and city employees in holding them accountable.
 

gabrielm

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I'm glad you brought up La Habra.

You obviously know what you're talking about but you left out important distinctions. Fullerton Engine 4 only responds on calls near Harbor/Imperial or maybe at the most, Euclid/Imperial. They stay on the "south" side of La Habra. Likewise, Brea Engine 1 only goes on calls on the "east" side of La Habra. Neither department is being sent to calls on the "west" or "north" sides of La Habra when Squad 191 is busy.

This means if you are unfortunate enough to have a heart attack in those other parts of La Habra when S191 can't help, you better hope S49 can get there quick from La Mirada. If not, you are waiting on S28, S20 or maybe S118 or S119 to come over the hill.

All of this is really embarrassing in my opinion. They have an automatic aid agreement with Brea that does not limit where in the city to respond. Even with a delayed dispatch time, I'm positive Brea Engine 1 could get to anywhere in La Habra faster than S118 (Industry) or S119 (Diamond Bar).

Additionally, La Habra Heights ME771 is dispatched by LACoFD and is a working paramedic engine most days. They only send 771 to calls within that small Automatic Aid zone.

You and others on this thread are right, it is not entirely dispatcher ineptitude. I'm sorry if it sounded like I was blaming them entirely. But I think LACoFD has a lot of room for improvement brokering better arrangements with neighbor agencies, as well as improving their own policies and dispatching protocols. Same goes for elected officials and city employees in holding them accountable.
You are correct. Ful E4 only goes south of Lambert and east of Euclid. Bre E1 only goes north of Lambert and east of Euclid. They both go anywhere in 192s on structures only. But you’re right — they will not go into 191s, even if much closer than LA County resources.

There are rare exceptions that don’t always make sense. A few weeks ago, there was a good cardiac arrest in 194s, off Beach and Imperial. The closest squad was 30 from Cerritos with an ETA of 25 min. The dispatcher requested Ful E4 out of their normal “zone,” but LHH ME771 was available but not dispatched. Who knows why. They would have been closer and no dispatch delay, since they’re dispatched by LA County, as you mentioned.

So La Habra Heights is a great example of what we’re both talking about. There’s a pre-planned mutual aid zone, as you mention, and if the call is outside of that, then you’re gonna wait on that county squad from 20 mins away. I agree with what you said about holding cities accountable and the need for better mutual aid agreements. OCFA and Metro Net have a true “boundary drop” arrangement that is much better.

Keep in mind LACoFD is still working with their 1990s McDonnell Douglas CAD, so that’s another issue. LA County units are dispatched by district, not current location, even though all rigs have GPS on-board. It’s not integrated into the CAD (why you hear so many swaps and “check on tac to see who’s closer”). That does not happen in OC. Although, if you bite the big one in OCFA 10s first-in, you’re gonna wait on Ful E5 or Bre E3, even though Placentia is down the street. But that’s a whole other can of worms. 😂
 
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tkenny53

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Every situation is different, and unless you are behind the console, you have no idea what has taken place.
MA may have been asked, and were unavailable, or the city may have been stretched too far to allow for it.
Cliff rescues in Palos Verdes will bring in LACoFD units as far away as South Gate and Pico Rivera, due to that is the closest over-the-side units, not to mention they are pre-trained in that situation.
 

Markb

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Something that seems to be missing in this conversation is that It's not Brea's or Fullerton's responsibility to cover La Habra. Auto aid agreements are not unlimited and are usually confined to a certain area. The city council (with the apparent approval of voters) willingly approved the absorption by LA County and everything thay comes with it. Brea and Fullerton have their own cities to cover.
Say BRE E1 is way over on the west end of La Habra On a call and a pediatric drowning goes out on the west end of Brea. Meanwhile there are several medical aid calls running or a fire, and the response is delaye because BRE E3, BRE E3 and FUL E2 are committed. Is it Brea's responsibility that there was a lack of units in La Habra? Maybe LAC sould be more aggressive about move-ups, limit training out of district....whatever, but until you have the patch and the 5 bugles on your collar, it's not your problem and you don't know the whole story.
Auto aid is a reciprocal agreement between 2 agencies and if the other agency provides a lower service level (like unit staffing) an agreement may not be prudent for the other agency.
 

seligman

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Something that seems to be missing in this conversation is that It's not Brea's or Fullerton's responsibility to cover La Habra. Auto aid agreements are not unlimited and are usually confined to a certain area. The city council (with the apparent approval of voters) willingly approved the absorption by LA County and everything thay comes with it. Brea and Fullerton have their own cities to cover.
Say BRE E1 is way over on the west end of La Habra On a call and a pediatric drowning goes out on the west end of Brea. Meanwhile there are several medical aid calls running or a fire, and the response is delaye because BRE E3, BRE E3 and FUL E2 are committed. Is it Brea's responsibility that there was a lack of units in La Habra? Maybe LAC sould be more aggressive about move-ups, limit training out of district....whatever, but until you have the patch and the 5 bugles on your collar, it's not your problem and you don't know the whole story.
Auto aid is a reciprocal agreement between 2 agencies and if the other agency provides a lower service level (like unit staffing) an agreement may not be prudent for the other agency.

Fullerton and Brea are being sent into La Habra probably 400-500 times per year, mostly on ALS calls. Maybe @gabrielm has the actual numbers. This seems to be part of the "design". I'm guessing Fullerton and Brea have had enough because 192 is supposed to be converted to a paramedic engine later this year.

As for La Habra taking the deal with LACoFD in 2005, that's because LA County inexplicably offered to pay for HALF of La Habra's fire costs while simultaneously convincing the City Council that fire service would be improved with the addition of Engine 194. It wasn't just the politicians making these delusional promises, it was LACoFD brass themselves calling the addition of La Habra a large "benefit" to LA County. I went to some of the public meetings leading up to this vote and it was a complete clown show. Much of the public support for this idea was actually the residents from the wealthy neighborhood at the top of Harbor Blvd. in Rowland Heights. Somebody told them that if La Habra approved the deal, they would benefit from Engine 192 being down the street, which is true, they do benefit. But I think the La Habra City Council got hoodwinked into thinking it was real La Habra residents voicing support of the proposal.
 

seligman

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There are rare exceptions that don’t always make sense. A few weeks ago, there was a good cardiac arrest in 194s, off Beach and Imperial. The closest squad was 30 from Cerritos with an ETA of 25 min. The dispatcher requested Ful E4 out of their normal “zone,” but LHH ME771 was available but not dispatched. Who knows why. They would have been closer and no dispatch delay, since they’re dispatched by LA County, as you mentioned.

This kind of thing is really inexcusable in my mind. LACoFD knows this is going on but they apparently don't initiate any dialogue to improve anything. In an earlier life, I was involved in local government and City Managers used to tell me that communication with LACoFD and OCFA was terrible. Neither agency wanted to be candid about any failures, thinking it would make them look bad. About the only time they would engage elected officials is to invite them to ribbon cutting events and other nonsense. No deep conversations. No honest discussion.
 

Z_DEO5

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From what I hear from the city. of la habra they have no clue what's going on or how it works and it shows when you ask any. city officials they have no clue what's going on. I was told that the city has 2 ALS ambulances 3 ALS engines and the squad but as many of you know none of that is true. It doesn't sound like they even have a plan when the next contract comes up.
 

Z_DEO5

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Also about Brea and Fullerton coming into La Habra. They do respond on automatic aid. But I would say 90% of the time they are canceled.
 

Markb

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From what I hear from the city. of la habra they have no clue what's going on or how it works and it shows when you ask any. city officials they have no clue what's going on. I was told that the city has 2 ALS ambulances 3 ALS engines and the squad but as many of you know none of that is true. It doesn't sound like they even have a plan when the next contract comes up.
This is what happens when a City Council/City Manager outsource something like this to minimize pension obligations in order to pat themselves on the back and make themselves look good to their constituents. Meanwhile they have no clue what is really going on and the agency that they surrendered control to gradually raises rates to the point that it's more expensive than their original department. Same thing that happened to Norco and others.
 

gabrielm

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Fullerton and Brea are being sent into La Habra probably 400-500 times per year, mostly on ALS calls. Maybe @gabrielm has the actual numbers. This seems to be part of the "design". I'm guessing Fullerton and Brea have had enough because 192 is supposed to be converted to a paramedic engine later this year.

As for La Habra taking the deal with LACoFD in 2005, that's because LA County inexplicably offered to pay for HALF of La Habra's fire costs while simultaneously convincing the City Council that fire service would be improved with the addition of Engine 194. It wasn't just the politicians making these delusional promises, it was LACoFD brass themselves calling the addition of La Habra a large "benefit" to LA County. I went to some of the public meetings leading up to this vote and it was a complete clown show. Much of the public support for this idea was actually the residents from the wealthy neighborhood at the top of Harbor Blvd. in Rowland Heights. Somebody told them that if La Habra approved the deal, they would benefit from Engine 192 being down the street, which is true, they do benefit. But I think the La Habra City Council got hoodwinked into thinking it was real La Habra residents voicing support of the proposal.
When someone flashes the “bat signal” (asks me about call stats), I answer.

FWIW, in 2023, Brea responded into LA County’s area 94 times (1.08% of their total call volume), and Fullerton responded 44 times (0.16% of their call volume). I don’t know for sure if this includes cancelled runs, but my guess is that it does, because these numbers were pulled directly from the CAD.

If you’re curious about reciprocation, the most recent stats I have on that are for 2022:

Brea -> LACoFD: 153 calls
LACoFD -> Brea: 22 calls

Fullerton -> LACoFD: 52 calls
LACoFD -> Fullerton: 33 calls

Now that I’ve gotten over your “incompetent dispatchers” comment, I totally agree with literally everything you’re saying. 😀 La Habra took a great deal at the time. But it wasn’t sustainable, so now we’re down an engine, and as of Monday, sta. 193 houses La Habra Ambulance 2 (which is very definitely BLS lol). I don’t think there was any static from Fullerton or Brea, though, re 192. LH was looking at upgrading it to ALS regardless.

I’m not entirely convinced that will help much, though. E59 is now out-of-service on hospital follow-up pretty often since they were temporarily upgraded to ALS. The real solution is squads, squads, and squads. It blows my mind that in a service delivery system that is 85%+ medical aids, you have ~170ish engines (6 ALS & 28 PAU) and only 75 squads. That’s like opening a Domino’s and hiring 10 people to make the sandwiches that nobody orders and 1 pizza maker. They also need more AP units — at least one in every battalion.

Back to your point, I think it’s bizarre that they will send squad 40 to 191s on a full arrest, while Fullerton, Brea, or LHH are available. I think they assume that not enough people care (or really understand the mechanics of all this.), so they “go with what they know.” A true boundary drop agreement would benefit everyone. And while I’m writing my xmas list, let me also add a CAD to CAD link from Metro Net & OCFA to LACoFD. A six-minute lag time (per PulsePoint time stamps) to dispatch auto aid is insane. The CAD link between Metro and OCFA processes auto aids in 30 sec.
 
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