Tuesday, January 30, 2007



This ain't a breaking news site. Nor do I plan for it to ever descend into a place filled with posts about which agencies use what frequencies and what PL tones (if you have to ask, you really don't want to know).

It was pointed out in the comments section that the devoted enthusiasts over at the SoCalScan Yahoo Group have been dissecting the LAFD/SMFD radio consolidation for months. Those people dissect just about anything public safety radio-related.

In fact, I've been a member of that particular Yahoo Group, which apparently now has 1,735 members, for a number of years. Truth is, I haven't logged on to that site in more than a year. When I need some nagging radio question answered, that's the first place I'll turn.

But you wont find it here. This is place to read random shit about the public safety agencies I'm interested in and other odds and ends I feel like posting. Head over there for the nitty gritty.

Expect my sometimes untimely discoveries and analysis here.

Welcome LAFD Battalion 14...

...to the Internets! Cruising around yesterday, I came upon a link for Batt. 14's blog/website.

The boys over there haven't updated the main page in about two weeks and two of the three platoon sub-pages are also a bit out-dated. But "A" for effort!

Battalion. 14 covers the North Hollywood/Studio City/Toluca Lake districts of the city. Nice to see those guys taking the initiative, using a wee bit o' technology and having some fun with it!

Friday, January 26, 2007

LAFD's New Voices

So, I thought mine ears were deceiving me earlier today when I turned on the scanner and heard Santa Monica Engine 121 going "available in quarters"on LAFD's dispatch channel 7. I automatically assumed the SMFD engine had been called out on a mutual aid run with a Venice (63), Mar Vista (62) or Palisades (23, 69) LAFD station, which is sometimes the case. I figured they'd been canceled and were just telling OCD they were off the call.

A few hours later, I heard a full blown dispatch in the city of Santa Monica, with SMFD resources and a Gerber ambulance all check in, going en route on OCD 7 (859.4375). Then, I heard a SMFD EMS run on OCD 4--the city's EMS dispatch channel. Could it be???? Was LAFD suddenly dispatching for SMFD? Was this the beginning of the Apocalypse?

The answer is yes, and maybe. Thanks to Kerry over at LACountyfire.com, LA City is now contracting out dispatching services with SMFD as part of an arrangement to test out radio cooperation between fire agencies in Region A. Region A is a grouping of fire departments that all offer mutual aid with each other and mix and match when forming Strike Forces to fight brush fires.

According to Kerry, if it's successful, LAFD could begin dispatching for other agencies on contract, since the City is the region coordinator! Holy shit. This is actually pretty big news and a pretty big adjustment for the extremely territorial City boys.

Already, because SMFD isn't hooked up to the LAFD's mobile computer system, they have to do all of their updates via the radio; they can't just punch a key on the computer to let dispatch see their status. That's virtually a doubling of LAFD's radio traffic, which is a pretty quiet affair these days.

In general, LAFD will "simulcast" all major incidents via the radio and over the nice computerized lady system that now "rings down" at each fire station. Instead of hearing loud bells and buzzers of days past, followed by a grizzled old dispatcher's voice, the men and women of the LAFD are now treated to a steady warble, followed by the smooth voice of a woman from Utah who recorded all of the dispatch combination possibilities. She calmly announces the call: so when a triple GSW comes in, there's no drama on the station intercom, just a middle-American voice telling the units they're going to a shooting.

The live dispatchers will still broadcast major incident dispatches over the air--ones that usually require multiple units from different stations. They also still dispatch any unit over the radio that's out of quarters and driving around the city. But at night, things get super-quiet. That's because all of the EMS dispatches that don't require fire company resources (ambulances without fire engines) are dispatched over the telephone--literally.

It's a throwback from the days when the firefighters didn't want to be awoken by numerous middle of the night EMS calls. Never mind that the opposite isn't the case! If an engine or truck company gets a call that doesn't require EMS, they still get rung down on the overhead speakers and all the station lights go on automatically....who cares about the medics' and EMTs' sleep, right?

Anyway, now that SMFD will need verbal dispatches 24/7 look for the frequencies to get busier. If this experiment works out, it's possible that Culver City, Beverly Hills and others (maybe the South Bay FDs) will all get dispatched by the City. Region C, which includes the Burbank, Glendale and Pasadena departments, already has this centralized system, known as Verdugo Dispatch.

As a side note, I was wondering why the SMFD unit identifiers changed in the last few weeks. What was previously "Engine 1" is now "Engine 121" etc. Must be to align the units with other departments in Region A. I suspect we'll see BHFD changing their identifiers eventually, as well.

Also, be interesting to hear SMFD adopt LAFD terminology.

Let the games begin.

Public Safety Porn

Check out the pics this guy took on his recent trip to the Southland:

He's assciated with EMTBravo.com, an EMS-oriented site that focuses on local EMS happenings in the suburbs outside NYC.

Looks like LAFD has a combination of rigs from Pierce (with high box compartments and low) as well as the new Segrave Marauder II series (pictured above), which I alluded to in a previous post this month. They look slick. What looks a bit lame are the new Pierce LAFD tillered aerials with the clear LED lightbars (also pictured above). Ugh.

Where's My Money?

You only have to be a teensy bit savvy to know that when you call a hooker who you found in the back of the LA Weekly, the front of LAXpress or somewhere in the bowels of Craigslist, that 99% of the time she's gonna bring her "driver".

At the very least, the driver will be big and burly. At the very most, he'll pack some heat. Meantime, at the very least, he'll wait in the car while his associate does her business and returns unharmed and fully compensated. At the very most, he and his female compatriot will try to rob the you--the John.

This extreme can happen a number of ways: The John--who's thinking with his Johnson--will let the chick into his home and she'll try to "renegotiate" on the spot--with no intention of even shedding her shoes, let alone getting naked. If this fails, she'll just return to the car, or call the "driver" from her cell and he'll be at the door in seconds. Other times, it's more blatant. The hook and the driver just show up to the door, began knocking and cause a scene.

Which brings us to last night's BHPD caper on Tower Road. Two patrol units sent to investigate a woman and her "bodyguard" banging on the door of a poor bastard's apartment screaming about money.

Unsurprisingly, by the time units went on scene, the lady and gentleman of the night had disappeared and the RP explained it all away as "somebody must have been playing a pratical joke on me," and just like that, the coppers went available and the crime was solved.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

LAFD Blogspot Getting Warmer

The other day, Blogmaster extraordinaire Brian Humphrey wrote a log-form entry on the LAFD blog detailing the busy Sunday handled by the department's Air Operations crews.

It was a good blow-by-blow rarely seen by Humphrey or his fellow bloggers Ron Meyers and Brian Ballton. It's good for the public, but the scannerheads would love to see more dorky detail. Brian has opined in the past that budget restrictions keep him from expanding the blog into more wonkish territory that would include streaming radio audio and/or CAD/dispatch screen capabilities. All that's understood, and I feel that he should campaign for donations to get that stuff up and running.

But Brian et. al could easily add unit numbers and other minutiae to their posts to satisfy the geeks who read the site. First-in companies and Fire Station districts are listed on the attached PDF files that the PSOs include in the emailed incident summaries, but seeing more detail on the blog entries, including lists of equipment that handled units, etc., would be a great first step.

Lions and Tigers and Coyotes....oh my?

Been scanning bits and pieces the last week or so. Best call, by far, was the reported mountain lion in the backyard of a Beverly Hills manse on Sunday night. BHPD took the call and sent a few patrol units, a Sgt., a K9 unit and a detective with a long rifle up to Tower Road to search for the wayward cat.

Things never really got tense, as the alleged lion was likely a mile away by the time the cops began their "search" of the backyard and an adjacent yard of a house that fronted Benedict Canyon. At one point early in the drama, a sergeant suggested requesting an LAPD airship--a smart move since the helo could have used its FLIR to spot the heat signature of the cat. But somebody dropped the ball and no helo was requested.

Needless to say, lion was UTL, but the cops were riled up by the KCAL9/CBS2 news helo that was orbiting low and shining their own spotlight uselessly on the scene.

Otherwise, run of the mill shootings, stabbings and fire fatals in the past week.

Two interesting tids: Coyotes appear to be roaming the Fairfax district, largely scaring the mainly Orthodox Jewish denizens of the neighborhood.

A veteran LAPD beat cop got shot in the Rampart district by a handcuffed suspect in a domestic violence caper. Apparently, a rookie copper searched and cuffed the susp. but failed to find the gun in one of his pockets. Officer Andy Taylor took two to the upper body, but his vest saved him. Suspect = not so lucky; return fire from the LAPD killed him.

Monday, January 15, 2007

New LAFD Engines

Cruising through Culver City today on my way to Costco (note: national holidays = bad time for Big Box shopping).
Spotted an Engine parked outside a restaurant and from afar, was sure it was a Culver City FD rig, but as I passed by saw it was LAFD Engine 62 (Mar Vista). Did me a double-take, because it was a brand new Seagrave, painted nice and pretty.
Up until now, I was certain LAFD was only taking delivery of new rigs with the raised rear compartments. This one was a slicked-out quad-cab but no raise in the rear. Had the telltale Seagrave flame decal between the driver and passenger doors. Apparently, E15 (USC) has one, too. It looks like they've been taking delivery since mid-2006, but mine eyes haven't seen one until today

Sunday, January 14, 2007

An Officer's Tale

Late Friday, the LAPD's union released the 19-page transcript of the disciplinary hearing for Officer Steve Garcia. The document spells out why the LAPD declined to punish Officer Garcia, a decision at odds with the civilian police commission's.

Hat tip to LAObserved for the link.

Also, Chief Bratton and the Mayor are making all sorts of noise about rescinding the law that now requires the secret nature of these proceedings. It's an easy (and politically wise) position for Chief Bratton to take since it's no easy feat to overturn.

Custom Made for the BHPD

Late afternoon scanning last Thursday, when the BHPD get the 484 call at the swank Barney's New York department store. It appears that couple in their 20s chose the five-finger discount and bolted for the exit without paying for the item.

BHPD was onscene in their typically fast fashion, but not before the two had fled in their Ford Explorer last seen eastbound on Wilshire running red lights as they made their getaway. They even scraped the car against various stationary objects in their haste.

After about 15 minutes, with the two long gone, the crime broadcast finally gets put out by the unit on scene who's taking the report. Stolen: one crocodile skin piece of luggage with a $13,109 price tag.

Unfortunately for the thieves, someone jotted down a license plate, so the cops were likely waiting outside someones house in Reseda when a certain Ford Explorer returned home.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Secret Life of the LAPD

Big article in the LAT today about the LAPD officer who shot and killed 13-year-old Devin Brown two years ago.

Devin Brown and a 14-year-old buddy were cruising in a stolen car down in South LA and fled when the cops tried to pull them over. After a short pursuit, the driver wrecked the car on a side street. The passenger jumped out and ran. The driver, ignoring officers' commands, began backing up towards the black and white. The coppers opened fire and killed Devin Brown.

Predictable outrage followed. The civilian police commission, comprised of at least one gigantic LAPD hater in John Mack, predictably ruled the officers' actions "out of policy."

Also predictably, the LAPD disciplinary board comprised of two cops and a civvy declined to punish the cop who shot young Brown. Besides the new, and frankly, troubling, cloak of secrecy under which the LAPD is now allowed to conduct personnel reviews, I'm happy with that outcome. The cops themselves didn't crack down on officer Steven Garcia. Why?

Because if you're going to steal a car; force the cops to chase you around in the predawn darkness; crash into a car; then back up into a police car, chances are very, very good, that you're going to get shot. And killed.

Why should a cop have to duck behind his car or jump out of the way and put him or herself at a tactical disadvantage by trying to get into a position to disable the car, or you, using nonlethal means when the chances are very, very high that you will either use the car, or a gun, to try to kill him as soon as the opportunity presents itself (i.e. as you try to make your escape or avoid getting arrested)?

No one knows the driver is some 13 year old kid joyriding, and a cop shouldn't have to care when he's trying to do his job. Let there be community outrage. Let there be a politically motivated/biased opinion from the civilian police commission. And then let Officer Steven Garcia go back on patrol.

Plugging IncidentPage

You know you're a scanner dork when you feel the need to scan by proxy. Though there are websites devoted to fire and police scanner feeds so you can listen from the comfort of the Internets, there are times when you just can't put an ear to a scanner.

So I say, let people do it for you! Allow me to flack for incidentpage.net for a moment. For a small subscription fee Joe Public and Joe Media can join and get all types of incidents paged to cell phones, email accounts and other wireless devices. Simply get the page, read the incident frequency, tune in and voila!

Subscribers can sign up to get alerts from just about any part of the U.S. and Canada; so if you live in Mississippi and want notification of major incidents in New York, you can subscribe to the NY chapter and stil get alerts, though you won't be able to do much scanning unless you couple the pager service with a subscription to FireFeeds for a true dorked-out experience!

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

LAFD Gets Into the Action...**

***WRAPUP 12:39*** Shit, folks, that was quick. They grabbed it at 2 acres and are sending rigs home. The helos are actually already back at home at Van Nuys airport. That was a lot typing for a little fire!

***UPDATE 12:01***: Here's a rundown of the currently committed companies (and where they're normally stationed, to give an idea of how the department floods the zone on Red Flag days):

E76 (first in company--Cahuenga Pass)
E41 (Hollywood)
Task Force 27 (Hollywood)
E60 (North Hollywood)
E82 (Hollywood)
E86 (Toluca Lake)
E97 (Studio City/Mulholland Drive)
E7 (Van Nuys)
E52 (East Hollywood)
E39 (Van Nuys)
Pre-formed Tactical Team w/ E85 (Harbor City), E38 (Wilmington), E3 (Central City)
2nd Tac Team w/ E61 (Miracle Mile), E1 (Lincoln Heights), E11 (Pico-Union)
Division 1 (Command officer who covers central and west LA)
EMS 11 (Paramedic Supervisor from Battalion 11's district, Pico-Union/Rampart/Westlake)
RA86 (Toluca Lake)
BC5 (Hollywood)
BC14 (North Hollywood)
BC 10 (Van Nuys/Sherman Oaks/Encino)
BC 11 (Pico-Union/Westlake)
Helicopters, 1, 4, and 6
Bulldozer team

LA County is also sending a full brush assignment consisting of 4 helos, 5 engines, 4 camp crews, 1 water tender, 1 dozer team and 2 BCs.

No one's fucking around on this one....

# # #

Not to be left out of the brush fire fun, but City Fire is just getting on scene of a bunch of palm trees and brush involved next to the northbound 101 (Hollywood) Freeway at Lankershim.

Hollywood's Battalion 5 is now the Universal IC, requesting a full brush assignment, including helos to the scene. Pretty much every LAFD resource assigned to Hollywood is now committed. E76 is first onscene with E82 just rolling up and some North Hollywood units are also enroute. E60 is heading to the Mt. Lee helispot (at the Hollywood sign) to refuel the water droppers.

Batt. 5 is in charge, for now. The action's on OCD Channel 9 and Tac 13, for now. With Division 1 enroute and two additional Batt. Chiefs ordered, it's getting bigger on the resource side, though it may scale back down just as quick.

OCD is blitzing in the their pre-deployed tactical teams that consist of three engines each, two engines and a BC shy of a full Strike Team.

They're shutting down parts of the northbound 101 as the fire just jumped a road and is heading towards Universal Studios. Started at 1/4 acre of grass but growing. IC thinks they can get a quick knockdown once the two water droppers are overhead.

I can just now see the smoke popping over the Hollywood Hills from my office window.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Malibu Burns (Again)***

***WRAPUP*** 10:39 01/09/07: Looks like they kept it to five homes and a guest house destroyed. Good work all around, though not good enough to save Suzanne Somers' home. So much for the Three's Company theme song: "Come and knock on my door..." Part of the reason these things don't often get too out of control in LA County is in part due to the fire agencies' ability to dump a ton of resources very quickly onto a major incident--especially if they're ready for it in a Red Flag sitch.

Also, a big hat tip to Kevin at L.A Observed for the inbound link today!

***UPDATE*** 19:28: IC is requesting the Gas Co. get a CHP escort since they're stuck in traffic on PCH trying to get to the scene. Fire's mostly quieted down except for a few residences that have gas main breaks and are threatening nearby exposures. I'm headed home and might do a wrapup later. Quick work by LACoFD seems to have paid off as much as possible.

***UPDATE*** 19:11: IC is releasing one of the water-dropping helos and things are darkening down along the line of burned structures. But the KTTV feed just showed a live shot of units in staging with an LAFD strike team arriving on PCH. Only caught the last two units in the strike team but it included LAFD Engine 63 (Venice) and Engine 71 (Bel-Air/Beverly Glen). 71's interesting because its station is located in a high brush area in the middle of "Red Flag" country. So they probably have at least one, if not two units moved up to 71s.

# # #

Funny, as I update the blog in the New Year and what should happen? Malibu encounters its annual burn.

I spent the better half of the day reminding co-workers that we usually get a hot spell at least once in January. I remember enjoying the surf off my former home in Manhattan Beach in past Januarys, marveling at the hot weather before it would turn "cold" again at the end of the week. I also recall that Malibu burns at least once a year, sometimes in January.

Not a huge surprise given the Red Flag warnings of the past week or so. LACoFD had predeployed units out in Malibu (and likely every other brush area) given the weather conditions so they were able to dump a bunch of units right on top of things when it lit off.

So it came as little surprise when the AP bulletin hit and I sit here now glued to the LACoFD Blue 2 frequency (470.4375). After about 1 hour and 20 mins, Malibu IC reported 8 homes destroyed and another 5 damaged. Likely, they'll lose them all. Since I'm on Blue 2 and sitting in Beverly Hills, I can't hear anything on the simplex Tacs and I'm not scanning, just sticking to the main operations frequency.

Likely a ton of moveups on Blue 3 and Blue 8. Baywatch Malibu is standing by offshore as Lifeguard units are also committed. For a time, they backed off the structure protection teams over concerns of a high-pressure gas line under the homes. Then, they had a water pressure drop and order four water tenders into the scene. Water pressure is now being restored.

They also declined a request for additional helos from both LA City and County fire. The LACoFD chief is also on scene, so now we KNOW it's a big one. Looking at a live KTTV Feed I found online, it looks like the structures are pretty much burned out and the big fire is laying down.

A bunch of additional Strike Teams are at staging now on PCH, and LAFD and Ventura are also ramping up units. Looks like they'll probably confine this to the brush that's burned uphill and hopefully make a stand on the homes lining the beach.

Tons of good scanning on this one and a good thread over at LACountyFire.com (unofficial).

The Maui Life

My friend DaveK and I go way back to our EMS infancy days. While my career in public safety is on indefinite hiatus, DaveK's is plowing full steam ahead. By that I mean he's settled into a nice life on Maui where he works "full time" as a paramedic for AMR. According to DaveK, AMR in the Islands is a different beast than mainland AMR, which, I can tell you is a beast in every sense of the word.

I'll take DaveK's word for it, but suffice it to say he lives in a house with his wife deep in Maui's rural interior. He pulls 48 hour shifts at various ambulance stations around the island. He then gets four days off.

The other day we talked.

I was in LA, stuck in my car on Olympic Boulevard. He was in shorts and a t-shirt sitting in a lawn chair on the island of Lanai, halfway into the first day of a 48 hour shift. He had run zero calls and expected to run only about one or two for the entire two days. Back in my EMS heyday the mere thought of sitting in an ambulance station for two days and running no calls would have driven me insane. Now, it sounds like paradise.

Fucking Aloha, Dave.

Here Yesterday...Gone Today

The scanner patter continues day in and out in the first two weeks of the new year. Nothing all that exciting. A few good pursuits and couple of decent fires on both the LAFD and LACoFD sides. Even BHFD got in on a little structure on the top of a center-hall apartment building on N. Swall Drive on New Year's day.

One thing that seems to be out is the LAFD "Quick Response" dispatch that I heard on the air for a few weeks at the end of the year. At first, I found it annoying, because they simply dispatched one unit (usually an engine) on a "Medical Quick Response" call but never gave out any further info. As a devoted LAFD scannerhead, that was disturbing because the LAFD has always been stingy on the incident info.

Since the advent of the Mobile Data Terminal (now called a Mobile Data Computer--MDC) the dispatchers rarely give out much info beyond the incident type and the address. The rest gets sent electronically from the dispatcher's computer to the MDC inside each apparatus.

So with the Quick Response dispatch I feared all info regarding the call type would be forever hidden from the radio traffic. After a few days of the new system, however, I discerned that the quick response unit would momentarily be followed by a rescue ambulance or additional engine or light force company resources once the call type had been determined. In fact, it seemed a great way for the LAFD to improve response times by sending the closest available resource right off the bat, and adding the appropriate level of medical response equipment once the dispatcher figured out the medical problem.

In reality, since firefighters on LAFD engine companies don't make a habit of hurrying to the rig for unknown-type medical calls, it's uncertain how much time this really shaved off responses, but "A" for effort in my book. But that new dispatching style disappeared from the radio waves after only a few weeks. It's possible that the department is still using the new method as a now standard dispatching procedure using its automated dispatch system that goes to each station via landline and has just stopped doing it over the radio. That system allows LAFD dispatchers to send out multiple calls to multiple fire stations simultaneously; previously, the calls would have to be dispatched one after another, leading to seconds of delay.

Maybe the indefatigable Brian Humphrey can answer the question for me.