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December 14th, 2011 MARTY SMITH | Dr. Know
 

Dr. Know: 911-a-holics?

How much do the rest of us pay for chronic 911 callers?

drknowILLUSTRATION: Hawk Krall
     
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My building gets eight to 10 emergency visits from Portland Fire & Rescue each week, usually for the same three or four residents. How much do the rest of us pay for that care? Do 911 callers get billed for emergency medical treatment?

—Trying Not To Appear Callous

For somebody who’s trying not to appear callous, you sound awfully ready to put a bullet in Grandma the first time she pulls up lame.

Still, I get your point: There’s a popular perception that a relatively small number of indigent frequent flyers eat up the lion’s share of emergency services. Like most people, you’d like to know how much your tax bill might go down if we started, say, euthanizing these deadbeats and auctioning off their hides for the benefit of the general fund.

But is it really true that a few bad apples—or rather, sick apples—initiate the bulk of 911 calls? “Sometimes we feel that way, but the answer is no,” says PF&R spokesman Paul Corah, who notes that of 45,000 emergency medical services calls annually, only about 400 are generated by hardcore 911 enthusiasts.

Furthermore, while I suppose it’s possible that the “building” you mention is a tony Pearl District condo, I get the impression that you rent. If so, you don’t contribute a dime to your neighbors’ EMS habit: Portland Fire & Rescue is funded by property taxes.

Since PF&R doesn’t bill callers for 911 services, your EMS-loving neighbors aren’t paying, either. It’s all on the property taxpayers.

Doubtless some of these put-upon homeowners find footing the bill for this bit of social safety net unfairly burdensome. But, after all, it’s property owners who have the most to lose from the breakdown of society—we battle-hardened veterans of the Portland rental market, with nothing to lose, can revert to savagery, like, whenever.

 
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