Nuisance 911 calls delay response to real emergencies, paramedics say

Nuisance 911 calls delay response to real emergencies, paramedics say

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Paramedics get some ridiculous calls.  In our ride along with Honolulu EMS paramedics we learned there are only 20 EMS ambulances working on Oahu at a time serving nearly a million people and nuisance calls can slow response time.

Being a paramedic is a fast paced job.  At times with a lot of blood involved and lives can be on the line.  But that isn't always the case.

"The call came in that they were tired and weak. We responded lights and sirens. We got out there and he was just hungry. So we cooked him breakfast, eggs and bacon," said Tony Altomare, EMS Paramedic.

Yes he actually made the guy breakfast. And that's not the only example.

"A man wanted grapes from the fridge and he wanted it in a bowl and he wanted them washed and we ended up doing that for him also," said Altomare.

If they are en route to a non-emergency they can be diverted.  But once on scene they can't leave until the person actually goes to the hospital or signs off refusing service.  At times it's faster to do what they need and then leave.

"We could be on that call while just down the block somebody is having a heart attack and really does need us and then again an ambulance from another area would have to come in delaying response time," said Shayne Enright, Emergency Services Department Spokesperson.

Case in point, Tony Altomare and Ryan Umeno are paramedics based in Waikiki on Kapahulu Avenue. But they had to go to a self inflicted stab wound all the way in Nuuanu Valley because the four closer ambulances were out on calls, which is why nuisance calls are so dangerous.

"Everybody's definition of an emergency is different so for them that was an emergency so they called us. We try to educate them and explain what an actual emergency is," said Altomare.

By the way, don't call paramedics for your pet.

"I've actually gone to cats that were dying and they wanted us to do something for them but there is nothing we can do for them except help them call the vet," said Altomare. "We treat humans."

"It's not to shame anyone or to make anyone feel bad. We just want to run an efficient system and with 20 ambulances that means we need to respond to emergencies only," said Enright.

There are penalties for prank calling 911, but not for the nuisance calls which is why they plead with people to only call an ambulance for medical emergencies. One more thing, get out of the way when they have their lights and sirens on.

Copyright 2015 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved.