In the next few years, overburdened Portland fire stations may shift focus from responding to each service call to setting up a direct line with parties better suited to handle a caller’s emergency. Connecting someone with a social worker or mental health professional instead of a firefighter could help reduce the Portland Fire and Rescue Bureau’s tremendous volume of service calls.
The concept is one among many being studied as part of the fire bureau’s Blueprint for Success project, which is tasked with understanding the root cause of increasing emergency call volume. More frequent non-emergent calls — such as a senior citizen needing lift assistance — decrease the ability for firefighters to handle emergencies they are best trained for.
Portland State University students in the College of Urban and Public Affairs (CUPA) are identifying ways to reduce the fire bureau’s emergency call volume. They are working with the bureau to analyze emergency call data to better understand the types of calls made from each community in hopes of reducing them.