Mobile Commerce

Washington, D.C. Fire, EMS Mulling Using Uber

911 calls are on the rise in Washington, D.C., prompting officials to mull using Uber cars and drivers to handle some of the workload.

Washington D.C. Fire and EMS Department Chief Gregory Dean told a local media outlet that the department, as well as officials in D.C., are looking at staffing 911 call centers with nurses who can act as triages, evaluating the medical needs of the callers and, if possible, dispatching vehicles other than an ambulance to get a patient to a doctor’s office. It’s not for people who need immediate medical assistance or should be in a hospital.

“We are working with the health department to find other ways to transport people, such as using a contract taxi cab or Uber,” Dean said in an interview. “We are trying to find creative ways to try to reduce the strain on the system.”

Washington, D.C. sent out ambulances for more than 160,000 911 calls last year, with many of them turning out to not be high-priority cases. As it is set up now, first responders are dispatched whether it’s a gunshot victim or someone with a headache. The Washington, D.C. EMS and Fire Department plans on getting recommendations from a task force this fall and is gearing up for implementation in the early part of 2017. Washington, D.C. already relies on private ambulance companies to pick up some of the slack. In fact, according to fire and EMS officials, private ambulances transport about 90 patients a day and cut non-life-threatening transports approximately in half in their first week working with the city.

Uber is no stranger to providing support to government agencies. It already has arrangements with local governments in several cities around the United States. Under the agreements, it provides rides to seniors, acts as supplemental public transportation and is a tool to reduce the number of people who get behind the wheel of a vehicle under the influence.

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