“Saying nonemergency calls to the Memphis Fire Department’s emergency medical services are driving up response times and costs, Mayor A C Wharton was in Las Vegas Monday to accept an IBM Smarter Cities grant that will use data to combat the problem.
Memphis is one of 16 cities worldwide, and four in the United States, to receive part of this year’s round of grants, which IBM values at $500,000 each. About 100 cities applied, an IBM executive said at the IBM Edge Conference.
“Our resources are limited so we have to do so much more,” Wharton told conference attendees. He said IBM’s assistance will help the city in “collecting, analyzing and storing” the information about nonemergency calls.
Among U.S. cities, Memphis joined Detroit, Denver and Rochester, N.Y., in receiving grants.
The Wharton administration’s media advisory for the Tuesday announcement said that MFD responded to 120,000 EMS calls in 2014, and about 25,000 of those were nonemergencies. The administration said nonemergency call volume increased by 10.5 percent in the past three years, driving up response time.
A 2014 city government efficiency study by Public Financial Management, commissioned by the Wharton administration, called for exploring alternatives to EMS such as privatization. It said that more than two-thirds of the fire department’s calls were for EMS/rescue, and highlighted problems the service has in collecting charges.
IBM’s Smarter Cities Challenge teams, according to a January news release announcing the grant application process, “spend three weeks in the winning region analyzing all available data about a critical issue of the municipality’s choosing. Team members meet in person with dozens of members of the local government, citizen, business, and not-for-profit communities.
Memphis receives IBM Smarter Cities grant to address fire department EMS calls – The Commercial Appeal.