Thursday, December 07, 2006


It's been a busy week for public safety in the Hills and if you believe things really happen in threes, then my best guess is BHFD is long overdue for a ripping structure fire.

Late Saturday night saw the city's first fatality traffic accident in awhile--we're not counting the fatal vehicle vs. bicyclist at Wilshire and Little Santa Monica a few months back. C/D-list actor Lane Garrison apparently drove his Land Rover directly into a tree in front of the Islands restaurant on South Beverly Drive just north of Olympic Boulevard after he picked up three high school kids at a nearby gas station convenience store.

Lucky for Garrison, the tree emerged seemingly unscathed. Not so lucky was the fate of a 17-year-old passenger who died at Cedars Sinai after a Code 3 BHFD transport. The two 15-year-old girls survived as did Garrison who was taken to Century City Hospital. His attorney has provided nearly a week full of laughable quotes regarding his client's participation in the event; everything from he woke up at the hospital with total amnesia to he only had a sip of one drink to etc. etc. etc.

I was driving home from a party heading south on Beverly and was forced to detour at Gregory around the scene. Couldnt see much from 100 yards away except a ton of flashing lights. After I got home, heard Engine 1 go by on Olympic as second or third-in engine on the call. The scanner traffic was pretty routine so I didn't know it was a fatal until I checked the news the following day.

That was #1. The second event happened last night during a fairly ho-hum Wednesday night of scanning. BHPD was doing their usual slew of late evening traffic stops when a Code 3 call dropped on Tower Road, a posh street in the way north end of the city that usually sees zero crime.

It came across as a possible burglary in progress and was quickly upgraded to a 459 (burglary) suspect fighting with a Bel-Air Patrol (armed private security guard) officer and that the officer had been stabbed. For the first time in memory, every BHPD unit on duty in the city hit their lights and sirens and headed for the scene, as did detectives at SWAT members in unmarked cars from BHPD HQ. An LAPD airship was requested and we were off to the races.

Once on scene, it was clearly chaos as the average BHPD call doesn't produce nearly as much adrenaline. Turns out, the Bel-Air Patrolman stabbed the burglarly suspect as they scuffled. The suspect, however, had been stalking a woman who lived at the home and this info was broadcast over the air. BHPD SWAT cleared the large house and the suspect was taken to Cedars via Rescue 1. Rare to catch a stalker in the act and then stab him, so it was a good call for me and the cops.

Now, it's time for #3...what'll it be????? My bet's on a fire.

***UPDATE (12/09/06)*** It looks like Long Beach Fire (also due for a big structure) caught the Big One last night at a huge apartment complex. Two civilians dead, a bunch of FF injuries and a whole lot of fire, which spread through the ventilation system and burned a lot space.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Close Call in Canyonland!

Hot and humid like never before in L.A. the past two weeks. High temp and high low temp records have shattered in the past week. Lightning has sparked brushers from deep in the California deserts all the way out to Catalina Island, 26 miles offshore, which got a Sunday morning lightning show that resulted in a brush fire on a remote part of the island.

I only got bits and pieces of scanning in all weekend, but heard some pretty good shit. What I didn't hear was the extremely awesome and rare coordination that sent multiple LACoFD crews to Catalina via United States Marine Corps Landing Craft Air Cushion (LCAC) from Camp Pendleton. Apparently, it was too risky to send crews via helicopter because of the lightning over Catalina Channel, so the Marines moved a whole bunch of equipment and crews onto the island to back up the undermanned County firefighters stationed on Catalina. But the city and county managed to escape any major brushers in populated areas until today.

Walking by the office TV tuned to CNN expecting to see the usual Israeli/Hezbollah action, imagine my surprise when I saw a KABC7 live helo shot of a ripping brusher in Benedict Canyon!!!!

That's a stone's throw from where I grew up and assets remain in the family name that we're not quite ready to part with. Got to my scanner to just in time to hear the tail-end of an OCD Channel 9 major brush dispatch sending units to stage at F.S. 71 (Sunset X Beverly Glen Boulevard).

By the time I tuned in, at least 20 units were already on scene and the big Bell 412's were dropping water, so helispots had been set up and good structure protection was in place. Quickly went to Major Emergency Brush, but work commitments kept me from babysitting the scanner and hearing the action. It's a bummer, too, because it's rare you get a major brush in such a densely populated area: I'm sure some of the assignments and moveups were awesome!

I know BHFD and LACoFD pitched in. Fire contained to about 25 acres of brush, one house's exterior got a bit toasty and a few firefighters had to sit because of heat.

Long story wrapped: The brusher basically spared Benedict Canyon, and I basically missed all the good scanning.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Fire Service Day Tomorrow

A few quick words about "Fire Service Day":

As a boy, I always loved FSD, the one day of the year when the apparatus bay doors are wide open and the local LAFD engine was pulled halfway out of the station into the driveway. The years of visiting the single-engine house in my parents' neighborhood definitely pushed me towards an eventual stint in public safety.

One year when I was about 18 or so, I embarked on my own "FSD Challenge" and tried to visit as many LAFD stations as possible during the official hours of FSD. Though I knew reaching the 103 stations in one day was impossible, I hoped to hit at least 20 or so--mostly stations I heard so often on my Bearcat Scanner, but never actually visited. I think I did about 10 to 15, or so.

Though it was many years ago and my memory is faded, I distinctly remember getting a later start than I had hoped (I think I hit the road around 10 instead of the 8 a.m. start I had visualized during the week before).

I remember driving by a bunch of stations but not stopping in. They included FS2 on the Eastside; FS17; FS3 and FS9 both Downtown; FS15 next to USC and then I headed west. I'm pretty sure I cruised by FS29 in Mid-Wilshire; FS61 near Miracle Mile; FS92 on Pico Boulevard in Rancho Park--I might have even stopped at Marty's for an "Original Combo."

The most vivid memory is ending the day at FS37 in Westwood and talking to a bunch of LAFD Explorers, where I realized that I had belatedly missed out on the opportunity to participate in the program as I was heading to college the next Fall and would be out of state!

Anyway, enjoy Fire Service Day (Even though I live in the city of Beverly Hills these days and their FSD open house is impressive), I might stop by old FS58 on Robertson Boulevard, which is the closest LAFD house--and likely part of the LAFD mutual aid contingent that gets in on it when my 1936 stucco fourplex eventually burns to the ground!

If anyone embarks on their own FSD Challenge and hits a bunch of stations, let me know!

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

BHFD and the Horrors of the Private Ambulance

Just spent about 45 minutes typing a lengthy post....and I deleted it accidentally. What an asshole, I am.

Anyway, listening to BHFD and its two ALS RA's are out on calls, when they drop a GI bleed on Engine 3 and the dreaded "private ambulance." Nothing pisses off the guys at BHFD more than having to respond to a call with a private. The disdain in their voices is unmistakably clear when they announce they're responding.

To wit: Capt. on E3 says "Engine 3 responding, could you make sure the Private is coming code 3?" The dispatcher replies (annoyed): "We are." This is a moronic comment from the Engine for a number of reasons, mostly because he simultaneously blames/questions the hapless dispatcher for the predicament and, of course, sets the entire crew's mood for the poor bastards on whatever ambulance gets the lucky call.

Granted, BHFD is forced to call privates when the two ALS city units are unavailable and often the closest private ambulance has a 10 or 15+ minute ETA. A GI bleed can be a serious call that might require fast transport. So it's always funny to hear the BHFD Rescue units suddenly rush to finish their calls and get available just to keep the dreaded private ambulance off the call.

Like clockwork, Rescue 2 begins transporting Code 2 to UCLA as soon as they hear the word "private." Wouldn't shock me in the least if they get to UCLA, drop the patient off and spin around to respond to the call back on Wilshire Blvd. before the private even arrives. Strike that...looks like Rescue 1 beat Rescue 2 to the punch. Privates are out of luck in BH....again.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

The Great Ambulance Debate...

This is a bit outside my purview, but here's my two cents on who gets to provide emergency ambulance service to the LACoFD. For the last few years, American Medical Response has provided a majority of the 911 ambulance service for the County fire department.

Unlike LA City and (a few smaller municipalities) that use their own ALS and BLS ambulances to transport medical patients, the County sends two-man paramedic squads--just like in the 1970s show "Emergency!". Private ambulances respond to 911 calls but they're staffed with two EMTs who assist the fire medics with patient care. The fire-medic then hops onto the private ambulance and transports to the hospital with the EMTs.

This is a particularly stupid system for a variety of reasons. First, the fire department has to separately alert the ambulance dispatchers on any medical call. This causes a delay right from the start of the 911 process.

Second, the delay is compounded by the private companies finding the closest ambulance that's sitting on some street corner and then sending the ambulance to the call. Invariably, the fire station that is sending the engine and squad is closer to the call, often by miles. Once the ambulance has been dispatched from its street corner, then another ambulance is either dispatched to the original street corner, or will sit at its assigned location and wait for the next call, which could be any distance away.

In the ambulance industry, this is known as "system-status mangement." Not only is it a complicated system developed by mostly moronic people that work at big companies like AMR (and even more moronic people who work at smaller companies), but it makes for grumpy EMT's who are stuffed into the front of ambulances driving around aimlessly or sitting in the parking lots of 7-Eleven's.

Even the casual scanner listener will often hear LA County fire captains and medics requesting "AMR's ETA" over the radio. Partly, the Fire guys are pissed that they're on a medical call, but they're also pissed that sick people have to wait for an ambulance while they've been on scene for many minutes providing care.

While AMR and others take response times very seriously because they're financially and contractually obligated to respond to calls in a certain amount of time, individual EMTs have less incentive. Mostly because they're going to get on scene and likely be treated like total shit by both the medics and the firefighters. Also, they're EMT's, so medically, they can't do shit. Often, they're also pissed because 95% of them are trying to/have tried to get hired by a fire department and are either in the middle of the long, long, long process, or have already been rejected.

Then, they're gonna carry the patient around on the stretcher while the (extremely strong and fit) fire guys sit around or scurry back to the engine. Granted, LA City's system isn't flawless. Often, busy periods leave ambulances scrambling across town (especially in South LA and the Valley), but non-ambulance ALS resources can often be paired with a BLS transport unit and that solves the issue. LAFD has done a great job of flooding the districts with FIRE STATION-BASED ambulances and paramedics on engines allowing for great flexibility.

The LA County Board of Supervisors a few weeks ago broke AMR's monopoly on ambulance transport in the county. This is both good and bad:

Good = AMR is shitty company. Period. In LA County where they primarily do non-emergency transport work and BLS 911 operations, they suffer from the complacency as the industry leader. In other parts of the country--and even California--AMR paramedics are the primary 911 responders. There are highly competent and experienced paramedics within those operations that provide first rate care. The company, however at the managerial level, totally sucks. And the last thing I want to hear is a defense of AMR from anyone. They're a unit of a large and poorly performing public company. The bottom line is stock price and return on investment to the shareholder. That is their motivation. They treat their employees like shit, and are lucky to have exclusive 911 contracts in many markets that provide employment for some excellent EMS providers. Paramedics and EMTs in a number of locations are even LUCKIER to have strong unions that deal extremely well with AMR.

In LA County, however, since top-line care is mostly provided by the fire departments, AMR cannot hide behind the good medicine and competence of its paramedics. It's all about the dollars in LA County. As for the smaller companies like Schaefer, Care and Westmed, it's a mixed bag. They now get wider leeway to play with the big boys, but suffer the same evils from barely competent EMTs, greedy executives and the system status issue.

The County should either begin staffing its own transporting ambulances or make their squads truly first assestment and treatment units and allow the private ambulances to use medics for 911 responses and transports. Holding the monopoly on ALS care while depending on the privates for response and transport via BLS units is stupid beyond the pale.

Thank God no one reads the site, or I'd have a hundred idiot EMTs and even more idiot firefighters bitching at me in ungrammatical sentences with dozens of misspellings.

Living in Beverly Hills....

So after years of rolling in the modified Chevy Tahoe's/Suburban's, the Beverly Hills PD last summer starting phasing in the Crown Vic's for the first time in a long time. I remember the old 1980s Crown Vics and the Chevy Impala's the department used to have (a la Beverly Hills Cop), but for the longest time they've been rolling in the SUVs.

Good things about the SUV = easy to spot the cops when driving through the city.

Bad things about the SUV = light bar scheme sucked--way too low profile and almost impossible to see from the rear. To alleviate the issue, they installed blue and yellow flashers in the upper part of the rear windows. Good idea on the lights. Bad idea on tinting those windows making the lights nearly invisible during the day.

But the new Crown Vics are sweet. Decent paint scheme, nice new LED low-pro light bars, tricked out strobe packages. Awesome flat-screen MDTs and some sort of crazy touch screen MDT or mini computer mounted to the facing the driver. Dont exactly know what it is.

Biggest problem: Cops are now tough to spot in traffic.

No good BHPD calls recently that I've heard.

As for the BHFD, as I've mentioned before, the new frontline engines in the fleet are sweet. And the new USAR is so over the top, it's ridiculous. Now, they just need to replace the aged Freightliner ambulances with the UGLY slanting patient compartments. Culver City has some sweet new Freightliner's that would be good for BH. Also, BH should number the rescues on the exterior like every other FD in the country.

That's what it's like, living in Beverly Hills.

No Excuses

I'm just not going to make any excuses for my extended absences anymore. Life's busy. I'm lazy. Ta-da.

But there's been some decent scanning lately.

--Turned on the Bearcat296D a few weeks ago at the tail-end of the LA Marathon to hear LAFD units going on what turned out to be a retired LAPD detective who had a sudden cardiac arrest at Mile 22 of the marathon. They had a rescue, the golf-cartesque "Gator" and a bunch of other units on scene. I think the LAFD's medical director (a self-important doctor that plays paramedic whenever he can) might have actually been first on scene. Either way, sudden cardiac arrest is never good, especially during a marathon. Patient was transported but was pretty much DRT (dead right there). Kinda crazy to turn on the scanner at the exact moment the call went down!

--Heard bits and pieces of the major LAFD deployment a few weekends ago for the immigration protests downtown. A few hundred thousand folks showed up (which is about a few hundred thousand more than anyone figured) and the LAFD was scrambling all afternoon for a ton of total bullshit calls. But things did get sorta hairy down there at one point and it sounded like the LAPD was going to have a riot on their hands. But a few more men in blue with riot gear seemed to quell the masses.

--Yesterday, LAFD had a good swiftwater call when two teenage girls in the Valley got swept down a flood control channel. The most amazing (and impressive) thing about the LAFD is its ability to swarm incidents with resources. LACoFD has a ton of units but they're so spread out that the density and rapid response of units always takes longer than the City's. Heard the huge Valley dispatch go out, but by the time units got rolling, it sounded like Light Force 89 may have completed the rescue. Didn't hear the details on the scanner, but judging by the congratulations all around, sounds pretty spectacular. LAFD is VERY good at swiftwater stuff.