EXCLUSIVE: San Jose emergency response times under fire

October 12, 2012 6:11:24 PM PDT
In San Jose the issue is not how police are responding in the city, but how long it takes them to get there. An ABC7 News investigation finds slow response times may also be affecting the ability of paramedics to do their jobs in an emergency.

Officials at San Jose City Hall acknowledge they've been getting complaints from citizens because police are taking longer to respond to non-life threatening calls. In some cases, the calls are taking six to seven minutes longer than the city's goal. And now there's evidence that longer responses may be putting lives on the line.

It was already a busy evening with police officers investigating an officer-involved shooting at the Diridon Caltrain station in downtown San Jose. Then police were notified of an altercation outside a check cashing office where a man was down. A police dispatch log obtained by ABC7 News indicates no patrol units were available to respond. The log indicates the police were called at 8:26 p.m. A fire truck with paramedics arrived eight minutes later. An officer was dispatched 13 minutes later, arriving 17 minutes later.

While it took the police department 17 minutes to respond to the scene with a man on the ground, the fire department got to the scene, but had to wait 10 minutes before they could administer CPR. They had to wait for police officers to arrive and declare the scene secure."

Police officers and firefighters working that day talked to ABC7 News on camera on the condition we conceal their identity. They stressed that delays can take a toll on saving lives.

"The time frames for those survivability's decrease with every single second," said Bill, a San Jose firefighter. "And when it gets into minutes, it just becomes unrecoverable."

"This certainly illustrates a problem we've been seeing on the street for quite some time now, and usually it doesn't end up with such a glaring result, but in this case, it certainly has," said Joe, a San Jose police officer.

City officials acknowledge that 17 to 18 minutes is the typical response time for a priority 2 call, such as this. However, the goal is 11 minutes.

But that doesn't take into account how firefighters must stage a block or two away until a police officer gives the all-clear.

"It's extremely frustrating," said Bill. "We are trained from the day we start training to save lives, to help people. To just sit there with idle hands is excruciating at times."

While the firefighters waited, the victim died. And this may underscore how slower police response can keep trained paramedics from doing their job. Fire department rules bar them from going into a potentially dangerous situation until police declare it safe.


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