San Jose Fire Department's Response Times Under Scrutiny

By Kris Sanchez
|  Tuesday, Jan 28, 2014  |  Updated 5:32 PM PDT
View Comments (
)
|
Email
|
Print
Show up faster or we'll cut your funding. That's the stern message the Santa Clara County supervisors are giving to the San Jose Fire Department, which has failed to meet response-time expectations. Kris Sanchez reports.

Show up faster or we'll cut your funding. That's the stern message the Santa Clara County supervisors are giving to the San Jose Fire Department, which has failed to meet response-time expectations. Kris Sanchez reports.

advertisement
Photos and Videos

Serial Arsonist Sparks Concerns About Fire Department Staffing

The search for the San Jose serial arsonist is rekindling worries about staffing levels in the fire department. Damian Trujillo reports.

Investigation on String of San Jose House Fires Continues

The San Jose Fire Department Saturday is urging people to be on high alert following a string of fires in the downtown area, including one early this morning. Investigators believe most of the fires were deliberately set. NBC Bay Area's Kimberly Tere reports from the scene of the most-recent fire.
More Photos and Videos

Show up faster or we'll cut your funding.

That's the stern message the Santa Clara County supervisors are giving to the San Jose Fire Department, which has failed to meet response-time expectations.

The county pays the fire department a bonus to respond quickly, and in one out of seven times firefighters are not delivering.

"The last six months we've seen from San Jose are the worst six months we've seen," Supervisor Joe Simitian said.

Simitian said the fire department is in breach of its contract with the county, which requires firefighters to respond to Code-3 911 "lights and sirens calls" within 8 minutes 90 percent of the time.

Comparing stats for the month of January, the fire department exceeded that goal in 2010, 2011 and 2012. But between September of 2012 and June of last year, the department only met the goal an average of 88.1 percent of the time.

"If you're in San Jose 500 to 600 times a month, somebody's going to get there late," Simitian said. "And if you're a stroke victim or a heart-attack victim, that's the difference between life and death."

The county in response is threatening to yank $2.1 million in incentive pay for firefighters. It won't break the agency's $164 million budget, but Simitian hopes it'll be enough to make a point.

MORE: Serial Arsonist Sparks Concerns About SJFD Staffing

"We have a system that's designed to reward and encourage on-time performance and it appears to be having the adverse effect because San Jose's numbers are the worse ever over the last six months," Simitian said.

The fire department has lost personnel and equipment to budget cuts. But there may be another issue in the numbers as well.

In a letter from January 2013, then-Chief William McDonald told the city council that the department had been inconsistent in calculating response time as far back as 2009, excluding calls that took crews out of their coverage areas. Those calls may have dropped response times further.

"I wouldn't necessarily say there was a mistake," San Jose Fire Department Capt. Cleo Doss said. "I think we just calculated it a way that didn't give us numbers that were accurate or that we could stand by."

The department is still working to come up with a system the city and the county can agree on.

"The city has made decisions based on politics and not on data and now the data is catching up to them," said Robert Sapien, who heads the San Jose Firefighters Association. "And we're finding the city is grossly ineffective in delivering on their promise."

Get the latest headlines sent to your inbox!
View Comments (
)
|
Email
|
Print
Leave Comments
Bay Area Proud
Bay Area Proud is NBC Bay... Read more
Follow Us
Sign up to receive news and updates that matter to you.
Send Us Your Story Tips
Check Out