Inspector/Paramedic Gayle Sonoda’s path to the Los Angeles Fire Department was unique. While a student at Chapman University, she served as athletic trainer for the Los Angeles Heat, a charity-supporting football team made up of LAFD firefighters and paramedics. In time, her trainees urged her to join the Department herself, bringing her on ride-alongs and station visits.
Fast forward eight years, and Gayle has made a name for herself on the Department, having completed the paramedic program and been promoted to Fire Inspector at Fire Station 57. She is currently part of the team spearheading LAFD’s innovative Community Risk Reduction (CRR) unit, which aims to raise community awareness of risk reduction through the utilization of metrics, technology, and community partnerships.
CRR currently supports two pilot programs—increasing the survival rate of those who experience cardiac arrest and preventing senior citizen falls—and Gayle hopes the list of programs and supporters will grow. “So far, we’ve joined with American Heart Association, the Red Cross, LAFD CERT and CPR units, and the LA Dodgers to teach CPR and prevent heart-related tragedies,” she says of the cardiac program.
The CRR works with the LAFD’s Community Liaison Office, a geographic information system called FireStat, and other local agencies to gather data on these risk areas. “Our goal is to educate communities to be able to handle a cardiac emergency and implement safety measures to prevent falls by seniors,” Gayle explains. “If we’re successful, there will be countless lives saved and far fewer 911 calls.”
Last year, the Los Angeles Fire Department Foundation secured a $75,000 grant from the Motorola Solutions Foundation to launch the CRR. “Having the funding to move forward with the programs has been great,” Gayle says, “and we’re looking forward to making continued advancements.” In addition to its current partnerships, the CRR plans to collaborate with city departments, including the Department of Aging, which share similar goals.
When she’s not at work, Gayle utilizes her qualifications as a trainer to support the LAFD’s Candidate Assistance Program, which helps aspiring members prepare for the Fire Academy and the physically demanding nature of the job, and continues to enhance her education at the National Fire Academy, fire conferences, and the LAFD Leadership Academy. She is also an active member of the Stentorians and the Los Angeles Women of the Fire Service, plays on the Department’s basketball team, and is a presenter at the International Association of Women in Fire and Emergency Service conference. In her free time, she enjoys spending time with her husband and her dog.