SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — Sacramento firefighters say 911 calls that turn out to not be an emergency at all are a growing problem that’s increasing response times in the area.
Firefighters said people walking along the street or driving nearby are seeing someone on the ground and calling 911, when it’s just a homeless person sleeping.
“I have personally responded to the same person multiple times because people just don’t take the time to ask them if they are okay,” said Roberto Padilla, a firefighter and spokesperson for Sacramento Firefighters Local 522.
Padilla said this a big problem people need to understand.
“Even if it only takes us 10 minutes to drive out there and check on this person, it increases response times for other parts of the city,” he said.
The homeless population in Sacramento is growing, as are the 911 calls about them. Padilla said at one point, fire crews responded to the same homeless person sleeping four times in just one hour.
“It does happen where people need the help, but most of them are saying ‘leave me alone, I don’t need help.’ We offer them the help, (but) they don’t want to go to the shelter,” he said.
Asking a homeless person if they are okay or need help could be uncomfortable for some people.
“Sometimes I have seen people and wondered if they are okay or if they need assistance, but it’s kind of hard to know what you can do,” said Sarah Light, a Sacramento resident.
Ricardo Light said he once called 911 about a homeless man slumped over in a wheelchair, who hadn’t moved for hours.
“Turns out they were just really intoxicated…I didn’t know. I thought the worst, to be honest,” he said.
Light said he’s unsure about approaching someone who’s homeless.
“I’m hesitant sometimes because I don’t know if they are under the influence of something, so it’s kind of a personal safety thing,” Light said.
Sacramento firefighters said they are not trying to discourage people from calling 911, but these calls about a homeless person sleeping could put someone with a real emergency, like a heart attack or fire, in jeopardy.