VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — A volunteer emergency medical technician, now entrepreneur hopes his new device can help lower the number of non-emergency 911 calls to dispatch centers.
He noticed over his five years volunteering with Virginia Beach EMS that seniors who live alone often rely on 911 for things like falls, fevers, or other things that do not require an emergency medical response.
“We respond, and we’re happy to help them out and give them the care they’re looking for,” he said. “But these calls could be and should be handled by more of a family member or neighbor. Someone else is the better level of care, rather than two paramedics, an ambulance, three firefighters and a fire truck all showing up at the front door.”
Unlike other senior alert systems, the SOS Caller does not immediately dial 911. Instead, it can be programmed with up to five numbers, which may include, family, friends, neighbors, or staff at a living center.
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Once the user presses the center button, the device sends an alert out to every number programmed in the phone, and dials the primary contact.
Often, when EMTs do respond, the patient ends up in the emergency room because of medical protocol and liability, according to Lepper.
“Even though we think they’re probably not hurt, we’re 95 percent sure they’re fine, we have pressures to transport that person,” Lepper said.
That, in turn, can land the patient in the emergency room and leave them saddled with a large medical bill.
“It’s a big mess over a system that automatically calls us, instead of the right level of care, which would be a neighbor or family member,” Lepper said.
In the event the user is knocked unconscious in a fall, the device is equipped with software that detects the sudden change in altitude, and sends an alert.
10 On Your Side previously reported that hospitals, fire departments, and rescue services across Hampton Roads are burdened by 911 calls that are not truly urgent, an issue Lepper is convinced his company will help alleviate.
“There’s no way it won’t. We typically have 12 or 13 ambulances on duty at one time,” he said. “If they’re tied up in a non-emergency call, that hurts the system.”
Lepper tested the SOS Caller for months, and has since started selling it online at rescuetouch.com.
He plans to donate a portion of the company’s revenue to EMS departments.