By Rick Orlov
LOS ANGELES — Faced with a tight deadline to resolve a dispute with a firm that provides emergency medical protocols, a Los Angeles city panel Friday called for a meeting to make sure there is no gap in responses when the contract ends.
Priority Dispatch Corp. has provided the emergency medical response protocols to the city for more than 25 years, but the Los Angeles Fire Department is in the process of developing its own system that officials believe will provide more flexibility. The contract with Priority Dispatch ends in December.
At the same time, the department is in the midst of upgrading its computer-aided dispatch as it looks at combining its response system with that of the Los Angeles Police Department.
The City Council's Public Safety Committee asked its staff to arrange a meeting for Priority Dispatch and the LAFD to smooth the transition and ensure the city is able to respond to emergencies. Both the Los Angeles County grand jury and a private consulting firm, PA Consulting, have also recommended that the fire dispatch system be civilianized.
Frank Lima, president of the United Firefighters of Los Angeles City, continued to protest the proposal and cautioned that officials should not rush to merge the LAFD and LAPD systems.
"Other cities have had negative experiences when they tried the same thing," Lima said. "It is not an easy issue or easy to accomplish."
He added that his group also opposes the civilianization of the LAFD dispatch sytem. "We think you will find it is not as cost effective as people think," Lima said. "We think public safety will be impacted."
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