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San Jose Has A 911 Problem-Emergency Response Times Fall Woefully Short

Like airbags or helmets, emergency medical help is something you might not give much thought to until you desperately need it. But if you live in San Jose, it's time to start paying attention, because the city's emergency response times are lagging well behind the national average and no one seems to be doing anything to stop it.

According to the San Jose Mercury News, San Jose is not meeting the terms of a contract it signed with the county in 2011, which required the city's fire department to respond to 90% of emergencies within eight minutes. Not only has San Jose fallen short of this mark for the past 14 consecutive months, it may never have hit it in the first place. (In 2012, authorities discovered the fire department had been conveniently leaving out tons of records in order to bolster its average response time.

While every other fire department in Santa Clara County is meeting - and sometimes well exceeding - this 90% mark, the San Jose fire department just lowered its own standards. Now, the bar is set at responding to just 80% of emergencies within eight minutes. That's an average of one call per hour that gets a late response. Moreover, the response time for Priority 2 emergency calls such as attempted rape or gang disturbances has skyrocketed over the past eight years, from around 8 minutes to upwards of 20 minutes. Essentially, if you're not on the brink of death, don't expect an emergency response anytime soon after your 911 call.

In what world is this acceptable? Sure, the San Jose Fire Department is struggling with budget cuts, and has suffered in recent years from losing several fire fighters. But whomever thought that simply lowering the standards would make the problem disappear is living a fantasy. Why not just lower the standard to 50% and cut the budget even more? As a Bay Area accident and wrongful death attorney, I know that a quick emergency response time can literally be the difference between life and death. This is a major problem for San Jose, and it needs to be dealt with proactively by instituting new policies that raise the standard instead of lowering it, hiring new fire fighters if necessary, etc. Of course, it can be difficult to institute change when financial resources are scarce, so the county also needs to work with the city to provide more resources to help tackle this issue.

This isn't the only major challenge the city of San Jose is currently facing. For years, the city has been lauded as the "safest big city." But homicides have risen above 40 per year for the third year in a row, and the police force is also extremely low on manpower.

If the city of San Jose doesn't get these problems under control, people are going to die. It's that simple. Contact your local officials and let them know: lowering standards is no way to save lives.

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