How is COVID-19 impacting different emergency agencies when it comes to calling 911?

Local News

ANDERSON CO, Tenn. (WATE) — Different county emergency teams are reminding people that calling 911 should only be used in the case of an emergency.

Earlier this year, Anderson County EMS had a meeting to discuss the high call volumes they were receiving which, they say, was due to the pandemic.

WATE 6 On Your Side’s Kristen Gallant caught back up with them on Sunday to see if this message stuck with Anderson County residents.

Anderson County EMS is ready to go when a call comes in, but they want to remind people to use their resources wisely when thinking about calling 911.

Like many other EMS workers, Tyler Crabtree lives to serve.

“This is our job,” he said. “This is what we love to do. If you feel that whatever is going on at that current moment is an emergency, we will respond.”

Crabtree wants to remind people of when it is an appropriate time to call 911 as people have been using the emergency service in non-emergency cases.

“We’ve been seeing an uptick in people calling 911 for the simple fact that they think they could be seen in the ER a lot quicker if they go via ambulance,” he said.

However, that is simply not the case.

“If you are deemed stable by ER staff, you will be triaged and go to the lobby,” explained Crabtree.

Across East Tennessee, some emergency calls were actually down at the start of the pandemic.

“March, April, May, June, our call volume plummeted,” said Nathan Sweet, Anderson County EMS director. “We say like a 25% reduction in call volume.”

Over at the Knoxville Fire Department, Captain DJ Corcoran said, “It’s hard to figure out why the call volume is down. We kind of attribute it to maybe COVID-19… a lot more people working from home.”

However, Anderson County officials said their call volumes rose as COVID-19 cases increased across the state.

“We just want people to start utilizing their primary care doctors and urgent care clinics if deemed necessary,” said Crabtree.

This is a message Sweet believes Anderson County residents have taken seriously,

“What we’re seeing right now is that the numbers are dropping,” Sweet said. “We’re seeing that on our end but we’re also seeing that reported by the department of health that even the positive cases in Anderson County has dropped significantly.”

Though 911 should only be used in the case of an emergency, Sweet added he doesn’t want anyone to be afraid to call in a life or death situation,

“Know that 911 is always going to be there for you but if it is not an emergency try to finding the best way to get that care.”

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