VOLUSIA COUNTY, Fla. --
Firefighters told WFTV the new way Volusia County is handling 911 calls could put lives in danger. They told WFTV Tuesday some people have been waiting more than a half an hour to get emergency help.
It's the evidence that a new dispatch system that doesn't always send firefighters to calls is failing, according to the firefighters' union. There are reports from firefighters that they get maybe one a week of calls that were treated as minor, but ended up being urgent, or calls where people had to wait for 30 minutes or more for help.
When a 92-year-old man fell in front of his house in Ormond-by-the Sea last week, the 911 call went out, but no one came. Firefighters at Station 14, just down the road, were told not to go, that an ambulance alone would handle it.
Twelve minutes later, fire crews were finally sent to the house, where the man with a cut on his head was still waiting for help.
"We're at the fire stations, we're training, and we're available and we're just sitting there at the station. They're telling us there's a call, but they won't let us go," said Jeff Maris, Volusia County Fire Union.
Fire union members say the county's new medical priority dispatch is causing the problems weekly. Dispatchers, based on information from callers, don't send fire trucks to every call now. It's one change to a county overhaul of emergency services that targets saving money.
"We don't see where they're saving money other than fuel and it's not worth the risk of people suffering," Maris said.
There have been no major incidents, though, because of the new dispatch plan, a county spokesman said.
Ambulances routinely hit their mark of making it to scenes in less than nine minutes. And, of the 72,000 calls for help they get each year, in the end only 5 percent end up even needing an emergency trip to the hospital.
Daytona Beach is still sending units to every call.
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