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Problematic Changes Proposed by LBFD

From Issue: Volume XXI - Number 1
1/11/2013


By Les Robbins

For well over a month now I have been trying to get my arms around the mess that is transpiring within the fire department. Between station closures, personnel shifting, apparatus shifting and proposed changes in what has been the pre-eminent paramedic program found anywhere in the County of Los Angeles, even with my 32-year background in public safety and my ten year tenure on the city council I am having problems figuring out just what is going on.

Let’s start with the proposed changes in the paramedic program. This is an issue that should concern every single citizen in this city. Chances are that either you, a member of your family or someone that you know will at some point in their lives need the services of two qualified paramedics. Whether you are stricken by a heart attack, stroke, injured in a car accident or in some sort of industrial accident you too should have serious concerns with any proposal that will replace two paramedics with one paramedic and someone with an advanced first aid certificate.

The Long Beach Fire Department has been on the cutting edge of paramedic service since the inception of paramedic services in this county well over 45 years ago. The implementation of the proposed program will be a draconian step backwards.

So why is this happening? Well for starters, in spite of what our newly appointed fire chief is saying publicly (and I will be back to his status as the newly appointed fire chief in a minute), this program has not been approved by the County of Los Angeles. It is a proposed pilot project and by all research that I can do, there has been no hint of any approval of this program even on a two-year trial basis. Our fire chief, whom I suspect was appointed because he sold his soul on this issue to get the appointment, continues to spread false information about the program and that is very troubling.

If our city moves forward with this plan we would have the dubious distinction of being the only city in the entire County of Los Angeles who would have such a system. There are reasons why no other fire agencies in our county have gone to such a program and there are reasons why I have still not found a single member of the Long Beach Fire Department, active or retired, who believes that this program will improve service, save lives and cost less. My interactions also include at least two former fire chiefs, both of whom still live in Long Beach.

My research has also led me to the conclusion that the real purpose behind this program is to get at the real goal that Mayor Foster has firmly in his sights and that is the elimination of the four firefighter staffing on each piece of apparatus. Because of how fire departments deploy and utilize their personnel this will, in effect, reduce staffing on many pieces of apparatus to just three sworn personnel. This implementation will drastically reduce the quality of our department and will short sheet the citizens of this city as well.

In all probability this pilot program would also require changes in the response protocols that the fire department uses as well. And last but not least, I am sure that the increased civil liabilities that we would certainly be exposed to in this tort driven society would be a grave concern to the city attorney’s office.

I would bet dimes to hundred dollar bills that the city manager looked long and hard to find someone from within the department who would support this proposed change. But, my years in public service have demonstrated to me that some people will do anything for a promotion.

les@longbeachcomber.com