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Fire district blames computer for slow response

Jack Carrerow

INCLINE VILLAGE – A computer glitch is being blamed for inflated response times by the North Lake Tahoe Fire Protection District, according to Chief Jim Linardos.

The district’s response times came into question in a document written by Peyton Gannaway, whose report on fire agency budgets was published last week.

According to Linardos, response times pointed out by Gannaway as excessive were taken from another report that was compiled by former Assistant Chief Bill Metcalf in November 2002.

While Linardos says that the report by Metcalf was done as an instructional aid and not meant as an official document, Gannaway claims it was given to him by Metcalf in the presence of Linardos.

“He (Metcalf) told me to be sure and read it. He never qualified it by claiming it was full of untruths, a work of fiction,” Gannaway said. “Why would he just give it to someone who he knew was surveying fire agencies if it wasn’t legitimate?”

Metcalf, who is now a fire chief in Southern California, confirmed that the report he wrote was an exercise for the fire academy.

“It was like a term paper,” Metcalf said. “If it was critical of anything, it was the time it was taking to process the calls through the sheriff’s office dispatch. It was no fault of NLTFPD.”

Metcalf added that the report did have a good effect.

“It woke us all up that there was a problem with the dispatching system and now I understand they (sheriff’s office) are working to correct it,” Metcalf said.

In the report, Metcalf states that while standards set down by the National Fire Protection Association requires a total response time of six minutes in 90 percent of incidents, NLTFPD reaches only 21 percent of its incidents in six minutes or less and 90 percent of its incidents in 11:42 or less.

Linardos says that, while that may be what the computer reports, it’s far from accurate and due to an antiquated and patched-together computer system.

“When the system changed over to the CAD (computer-assisted dispatch), it was very inaccurate in the times it recorded, sometimes adding two to eight minutes to response-time totals,” Linardos said.

Linardos admits that the department isn’t exactly sure where the problem lies.

“It’s either a case where all the computers are out of synchronization or there’s an electrical ground problem,” Linardos said.

Washoe County Sheriff’s Office Incline Substation Commander Lt. Gregg Lubbe says that, until the communication equipment can updated, the fire district will have to learn to live with it.

“What the system is, is what the system is,” Lubbe said. “Until the newer technology is brought on board, that’s what (NLTFPD) has to work with.”

Linardos admits that his department has been lax on keeping response time records, but that the current system would have shown wrong times and be useless.

“A better measure of performance comes from our customer satisfaction survey which rates us very high in several categories, including response time,” Linardos said.