ROCKFORD (WIFR) – The Rockford Fire Department says people are calling for ambulances when they don’t really need them, taking up valuable resources when help is needed most.
Chief Derek Bergsten says in his business, every second counts, but tying up an ambulance for a non-emergency usually means it takes minutes longer for help to get those who need it most and that could mean the difference between life and death.
Rockford Fire Ambulances were called upon nearly 21,000 times last year, but Chief Bergsten says really only 40% of those calls need an ambulance for life-threatening reasons. The rest could have been holding precious resources up for another more pressing emergency. The chief says it’s a problem all over the country not just locally even so, Bergsten says paramedics are trained to save lives and it’s hard to do that when people are abusing or misusing the system.
“If you’re using them, then someone else is unable to and that’s some of the frustration that we have when you’re called out to something that is not a true emergency. And then you have a call that requires all those resources that aren’t available at that time and now we’re drawing resources from another part of the city with a longer travel time and it’s just depleting that area for coverage,” said Chief Bergsten.
Chief Bergsten says the only way to make sure people are using 9-1-1 and calling for ambulances when they really need them is to educate the public, which he says his department tries to do by going to schools and telling folks they take to the hospital.
Bergsten says the fire department has only seven ambulances ready at a moment’s notice which really illustrates how important it is to only call when you really need one.