Pueblo City Fire Department launched a new program this week that could help decrease calls for service.
Fire Chief Shawn Shelton tells 11 News since 2008 they’ve had about an 8 percent increase in calls for service each year.
“We went from about 12,000 calls to 21,000 calls for service last year, and that’s an enormous burden on the fire department and it’s not sustainable. So we are looking for creative solutions to address those increase in calls,” he says.
There are nine fire stations across Pueblo city. To put it in perspective, a firetruck left each station more than 2,300 times just last year alone--and some of those stations only have one engine.
Over the last six months they’ve developed this “Directing Others To Service” program, also known as “DOTS.”
"The premise of the program is to try and address users of the 911 system that call us frequently but might not really have a critical need to do that," says Shelton. He continues, "What we've noticed in our huge increase in calls is that a lot of the people are simply that, using us to access the health system. So they need to go to the doctor? Well they don't necessarily have a primary care physician so they call 911."
The fire chief says once they are seen by a doctor the whole process is repeated when they need something else.
This program is designed not to treat these people, but to educate them and help them get the resources they need to properly access healthcare instead of relying on the 911 system.
Shelton says sometimes these 911 calls could be as simple as putting a bar up in the shower so they don’t keep falling.
"Maybe their cataracts are so bad and they can't see, so they're tripping and falling all the time but they don't have an eye doctor. Well, we don't provide that service for them but we can help them get a hold of an eye doctor and make those appointments," he says.
Shelton tells 11 News this is just a pilot program, based completely off of a volunteer basis so it is not costing the city any money. The firemen and woman are volunteering on their time off to see if the program will be successful.
They’ve selected a small group of people they feel call 911 more than the average person.
"We want it to be 10 or less initially and we're going to follow them through a year and see if we can make a difference and if we can then we will start identifying funds that we can fund our program to do it on a much broader basis,” says Shelton.
With the spike of 911 calls the fire department is experiencing, the end goal is to not only educate the people who are calling 911 more often but also to free up resources being used in the 911 system that could better be directed otherwise.