SAN FRANCISCO—A recent study has shown that only 1.5 percent of all emergency calls sent to San Francisco firefighters are related to property fires. A vast majority of calls sent to the San Francisco firefighters are for medical callouts, generally involving emergencies amongst the homeless population. 

According to the annual “Combination Run Survey” conducted by Firehouse Magazine, the San Francisco Fire Department’s Engine 1 was ranked as the nation’s busiest engine totaling at 10,122 calls in 2014. According to Firehouse, the Run Survey is meant “to help fire departments compare statistics including personnel, budgets and responses data.”

Although SFFD was ranked the busiest engine in 2014, averaging at 27 calls per day, nearly 70 percent of calls were non-fire related incidents. 

Lieutenant Tom Johannessen, an officer for Engine 1, commented that the department will often pick up the same homeless person multiple times in a single day; known to be the “frequent fliers, who we know by first name.” The most common incidents have been for mental or physical illnesses; oftentimes alcohol or drug-related.

Fire Chief Joanne Hayes-White, remarked that the department will be bringing back a program that will identify frequent 911 callers to better provide the callers services from the city, rather than send out rescue units. 

Hayes-White stated that earlier this year, the Next Door homeless shelter made high volumes of calls to 911, while many calls were non-emergency related. SFFD worked in conjunction with the Department of Public Health to have a licensed nurse tend to calls. Hayes-White stated that calls were reduced by more than 50 percent. The SFFD is going to study similar patterns to see where this concept can be applied.