Bizarre 999 calls put lives at risk

Wellingborough police surgery Tesco's: PCSO Matthew Powell, chats with shoppers.'07/01/12
Wellingborough police surgery Tesco's: PCSO Matthew Powell, chats with shoppers.'07/01/12

Help resuscitating a pigeon and advice on putting batteries in a TV remote are just two examples of unnecessary 999 calls which could have put lives in danger.

Officials from East Midlands Ambulance Service (EMAS) and Northamptonshire Fire and Rescue Service have warned people not to be too hasty when dialling 999.

Latest figures show that in 2011, out of 723,519 calls responded to by EMAS, only 28 per cent were for life-threatening conditions.

Numbers from Northamptonshire Fire and Rescue show that in 6,517 incidents attended last year, only 3,877 were genuine.

EMAS’ deputy director of operations Ben Holdaway said: “There are three types of 999 calls – the right call is when someone is in a life-threatening condition and needs emergency medical help. The inappropriate call is when someone doesn’t know which health service to use and so dials 999 because it’s easier than looking for a non-emergency number, and the wrong call is where we are asked to change the battery in a TV remote, or to help resuscitate a pigeon which has breathing difficulties.”

The fire service has been working hard to reduce the number of inappropriate calls they attend.

When a fire detector goes off, it sends a message to an alarm relay system (ARC) which then used to tell the fire service to mobilise. In January, the service changed its rules. Community premises have to tell the ARC at what times of day the buildings are occupied and if a call is sent to the ARC the fire service want confirmation there is a blaze.

Head of community protection, Baz Fox, said: “If engines are not available for real emergencies, it puts people’s lives at risk. We are a public service and it wastes the taxpayer’s money when we attend false alarms and hoaxes.”