Chattanooga Fire Department seeks solution to rise in non-emergency calls
The Chattanooga Fire Department, along with fire departments around the country, is responding to an increase in non-emergency calls.
In 2013, CFD recorded 435 non-emergency calls. But so far in fiscal year 2019, they've received nearly 1,400 non-emergency calls. That's a more than 300% increase.
According to fire officials, the trend is due to the aging population. The majority of these of calls are from elderly people needing help around the home or after a fall, and they make up about 22% of all calls to CFD.
"There are times that folks call 9-1-1 when they don't know who else to call and we're usually the first line of defense to help people get help," CFD Chief Philip Hyman said.
But Chief Hyman doesn't want to discourage people from using 9-1-1 if they need something.
"It may be an emergency to them. It may not be defined as an emergency to us," Hyman said. "So we don't want to hinder them from using the 9-1-1 system if they don't know who to call."
Still, the large number of calls comes at a cost. In addition to placing additional work on firefighters, it costs an average of $224 to respond.
Inspired by departments in Kentucky, Chief Hyman and the Chattanooga Fire Department are working on a solution. They're building partnerships with existing agencies to help connect seniors with the right resources, like home health care nurses.
"We've started a coalition through the fire department and using the agencies that are already out there to provide this kind of support, to give the firefighters numbers they can call or to give the individuals numbers they can call to get the help they need," Hyman said.