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Virginia Beach leaders work to fix issue of people calling fire department for non-emergencies

Posted at 6:31 PM, Aug 31, 2016

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. - Too many people are calling the fire department in Virginia Beach for non-emergencies.

A News 3 investigation uncovered what some call an abuse of the system after firefighters went to one home more than 1,100 times in a three-year period.

Virginia Beach city leaders are taking action to figure out how to fix this problem.

Virginia Beach Fire Department spokesperson Art Kohn said, “There is an increase in the aging population and we are looking at a couple of ways on how to deal with this issue.”

More and more people are calling the fire department for things like lift assists.

News 3 just obtained the numbers from the Virginia Beach Fire Department.

Here are the numbers for the past 3 fiscal years (July-June):

2016: 2,263

2015: 1,657

2014: 1,126

TOTAL: 5,046

The numbers have doubled since 2014.

“It stretches our resources thin,” said Kohn.

The problem was put into the limelight after a News 3 investigation.

They attributed to 38 percent of lift calls for the city in 2015, according to city records.

Leaders says the increase has been seen in these types of calls around the city.

“There are a few things that we are looking at but this is going to take time this is not something you are going to resolve overnight,” said Kohn.

City leaders are looking to create an ordinance that would possibly collect money from someone that called for a non-emergency a certain number of times a year.

And there’s talk to create a mobile unit that would help better direct people towards the proper resources. Kohn said, “Maybe council people like, interview them maybe see what kind of programs they might qualify for."

City leaders, city council, the fire department, and others are all working on this.

“As the senior population rises this is going to be an issue that's going to face fire departments not just in Virginia Beach but all over the country and all over Hampton Roads,” said Kohn.

City officials said there plans are in the preliminary stages and will take time for changes to happen.

News 3 spoke to the woman who called the fire department 1,100 times and she said she has been paying taxes for 32 years and doesn't like the way she has been portrayed.

News 3 reached out to other fire departments in the region.

Anthony Chittum, a Hampton Battalion Chief and Chief Deputy Fire Marshal said, “We have not witnessed an increase with lift assist calls. What we find is an increase if a particular address has not gotten assistance yet from the Community Service Board (CSB) or Medicare/Medicaid when they return from the hospital or move to the area…. We have had citizens who called frequently in the past, but we strive to put them in touch with internal/external services to assist them.”

Norfolk Fire Department leaders they have a program to connect elderly people in need with resources in the city.