GPW: Self-Tempered Anarchy since 2009

Your GPW Editor-on-Occasion is Petra Fried in the City.
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stories along The Way

Monday, November 2, 2009

In case of a park emergency, who you gonna call?

Alternative title:  Whiskey Tango Foxtrot Strikes City Parks

You are hiking on a trail in Griffith Park in the hills above the girls camp, Camp Hollywoodland. You just saw some guy toss a lit cigarette into the brush. A small fire erupts and the guy tries to stomp it out. He fails, and simply runs off so as not to be caught.  The fire is suddenly way out of control..... Who you gonna call?

Think now - there was a sign at the bottom of the trail that gave you the information you need. It said:


WTF?   WTF?   WTF?

Oh-kaaaaaay........ so who in the heck do you call?  Damn good question.  There are at least three different numbers to call if you need help in Griffith Park, and none of them is 9-1-1.

How can this be a safe situation? More importantly, what bureaucratic idiot allowed this to happen?

The real answer is a three-parter:

1. The 24 hour park emergency number is 323-913-7390.

This has been the case for ten years or so. It was set up that way to act as the 9-1-1 for parks.

If you call 9-1-1 on your cell phone, the California Highway Patrol answers the phone and unless you have a physical numeric address for your location more specific than "on a trail in Griffith Park", they are probably going to tell you to call the Park Rangers.

When you call 323-913-7390 today, it rings to the Office of Public Safety who is supposed to be patrolling all parks including the larger Regional parks in conjunction with the Park Rangers. Depending upon the dispatcher at OPS and how they perceive the importance of the call, you may or may not get any response. An illegal off-road vehicle, a runaway horse, a person smoking in the brush may not get any response from OPS at all. Of course, now that Recreation and Parks has just about destroyed any ability of the Park Ranger Division to patrol parks, you will likely not get a response from them either.

2. The direct line for the Park Rangers is now 323-644-6661.

Parks users asked for this number in Regional Parks because Park Rangers will answer the calls for an illegal off-road vehicle, a runaway horse, and a person smoking in the brush if they have someone available.

As for the third emergency number on the signs?

3. The direct line for the Office of Public Safety is 213-978-4670.

Now you need to ask the question, why is this third number here when I get OPS if I dial the first number?  The answer is politics. Both the General Manager of Recreation and Parks, Jon Kirk Mukri, and the Chief Financial Officer, Regina Adams, are both administrators from the General Services Department - the Department that houses OPS. OPS was handed control of most of the City parks as well as City libraries and public buildings as part of a cost-savings/efficiency measure initiated by Wendy Greuel and Jim Hahn. OPS and its backers promised to do the same services the Library officers and Park Rangers did, but do it faster and better.

Today, there is a lot of question whether OPS is even meeting the old level of service, much less exceeding it. Politically, however, no one is allowed to even intimate that OPS is anything but number-one-with-a-gun. Assistant General Manager Kevin Regan was tasked with dumbing down the Park Rangers while talking up the Office of Public Safety, which he reportedly does incessantly.

Ultimately all of this political posturing - Rec and Parks Administration making stupid decisions without consulting their own department's park safety specialists, the Park Ranger Division - has resulted in yet a third emergency number on signs in Regional parks without regard for public safety.

Time-tested public safety best-practices show that 9-1-1 works because people do not have to think about who to call in an emergency.

Three little numbers: 9-1-1.

People in parks are faced with three different 10-digit phone numbers. The only possible response from anyone trying to figure out who to call is W-T-F?