SLC Fire’s fall prevention efforts leads to fewer emergency calls for senior citizens

Local News

SALT LAKE CITY (News4Utah) – Falls from senior citizens can make up to 60 percent of emergency calls in Salt Lake City. Since the Salt Lake City Fire Department launched a fall prevention initiative with other agencies, they’ve seen the number of emergency calls for falls go down.

Three years ago, the Salt Lake City Fire Department partnered with other fire departments, hospitals, insurance provides, state and county health departments to form the Utah Falls Prevention Coalition (UFPC). The coalition tracks and evaluates falls and risks to educate seniors about safety and fall prevention.

“We’re trying to provide the tools and information so people can eliminate those things. We want to be able to help people have full, happy, healthy lives and not have unnecessary surgeries or things like that,” said Audra Sorensen, spokesperson for Salt Lake City Fire Department. “As you get older, you lose a little bit of your muscle function, you can’t see as well and those are the things that really contribute to a fall.”

Sorensen said in the last 11 months, they responded to more than 1,500 fall calls. According to Tom McKay, the community outreach lead for SLC Fire’s community health group, they’ve seen a decrease in calls.

McKay said after analyzing 911 call data and falling trends, their community outreach team visits apartment complexes and care facilities to create a customized plan to help seniors at risk. They also give presentations at senior living facilities.

“Under McKay’s supervision, we actually had a month, last August, with zero fall calls,” said Sorensen.

UFPC also promotes three stay-active-type programs:

  • “Walking with Ease,” a program by the Arthritis Foundation that teaches individuals how to reduce the pain or arthritis and improve overall health
  • “Stepping On,” a workshop led by the Salt Lake County Health Department, in which seniors take part in weekly sessions for eight weeks at the nursing home. Each session teaches participants techniques for getting around without heavy reliance on canes or walkers
  • “Otago,” a home-based individually-tailored strength and balance training program

Beverly Neville had a major fall slipping on ice six years ago and broke her arm tripping over a curb several months ago. That was the wake-up call for her.

“I’ve just learned that I totally am vulnerable and need to learn about ways to prevent falling,” said Neville. “As one of the women in the class said, we like to think we’re invincible and I have to learn that I’m not.”

She is now one of the participants in the Stepping On class at the Holladay Library.

“Anyone over the age of 55 could really benefit from the safety tips and learning what things we have to pay attention to,” said Neville.

Seniors and senior living facilities interested in fall prevention education programs can find additional information here:

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