911 calls surge in SF, causing 'level zero' status on daily basis

A recent analysis showed that 911 calls have increased, yet no additional paramedics have been hired since 2015

By EMS1 Staff

SAN FRANCISCO — An investigation has revealed that San Francisco's 911 system has been strained to the point of reaching "level zero" status.  

Because there is an extreme demand for service, KTVU's investigative team has found that the city's 911 system reaches "level zero" status, meaning there's at least one call for help waiting, every day for at least a few minutes at a time.  

The investigative team singled out an incident on Aug. 25, when multiple ambulances were unstaffed with calls waiting and no crews were available to respond. As a result, the city had to rely on mutual aid for coverage, according to their findings.  

"The risk is a person's health," Tom Fogle, with San Francisco Firefighters Union Local 798, said. "If you're having a heart attack or a stroke or you've been in a car wreck and you need to be in an operating room right away, the longer you wait, the less likely you're going to have a positive outcome." 

Fogle said it's common to not be able to staff up to five ambulances on a daily basis due to staffing woes, according to the report.  

A recent analysis showed that 911 calls have increased by 7% from 2016 to 2018, yet no additional paramedics have been hired since 2015. Fire Chief Jeanine Nicholson acknowledged the shortage and is looking at ways to meet the growing demand.  

"It's been a huge challenge for us," Chief Nicholson said. "We run at level zero on a daily basis and level zero is when there are no ambulances available to respond to an incident. That speaks volumes to me." 

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