City of Portland looks to change way fire department responds to - KPTV - FOX 12

City of Portland looks to change way fire department responds to medical calls

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PORTLAND, OR (KPTV) -

The City of Portland is looking to change the way its fire department responds to medical calls. 

No matter the reason for the call or the severity, if it’s medical related, an ambulance and a fire truck will often show up. 

“Nearly 80 percent of medical calls have both an ambulance and a fire truck,” said Michael Cox, Communications Director for Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler. 

The city said in just the past five years, medical calls have increased by more than 30 percent. That means Portland firefighters, who are EMT trained, are going to more calls than ever before. 

“There is a high degree of strain on our 911 system,” said Cox. 

But that could soon change.

On Wednesday, City Council is set to discuss a new way to respond to the calls. It’s a way that would send fire crews to only life-threatening medical emergencies, by using a new software that will help dispatchers determine the call’s priority. 

“This will make it so medical calls who really only need an ambulance will only get an ambulance,” said Cox. 

FOX 12 asked Portland Fire about the possible change. 

“It’s definitely a step in the right direction for us,” said Lieutenant Rich Chatman with the Portland Fire Department. 

Lt. Chapman said the growing number of calls can be taxing on firefighters at the end of the day. He also said it means longer response times. 

“That means extended response times and extended response times we know, doesn’t help with survivability,” said Lt. Chatman. 

He said most importantly, prioritizing their calls will only help them save lives. 

“One of the other things it does is allows us to have faster response times to those life-threatening calls,” said Lt. Chatman. 

City Council is set to discuss the new software Wednesday. 

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