Thursday, 15 November 2012


Operator: Ambulance, Police or Fire?
Caller: Fire.
Operator: Fire service. What's the emergency?
Caller: Two people carriers have crashed in front of me.
Operator: Can you see how many people are involved? Is anybody moving?
Caller: Each vehicle is carrying six people.
Operator: Address please.
Caller: Fleetwood Street.
Operator: Name please?... Caller, are you still there?...
Silence. The caller has hung up on the operator.

The above is based on a transcript of an actual call made to the emergency services. It's not exact, but it was just one of a string of calls in fact. A series of incidents reported involving the same street somewhere in Blackpool. Each time the caller hung up and the fire brigade had to attend the scene. To viewers watching these edited version of events, the details gave came across as vague and it was clear that these repeated calls were phony. It was done for a laugh, to get a reaction. 999 knew this person was a He, making calls from the same public phone, reporting the same locality, and if he didn't hang up on being asked his name gave the name of male celebrities. He was probably observing it unfold behind twitching curtains, laughing sardonically. CCTV eventually caught him in the act and he admitted to it. In the interview he gave to the documentary crew, he said it was a compulsion. In other words, an irresistible urge: he had to do it.
Antisocial behavioural problems with drugs and alcohol cause offences and unnecessary strains to the emergency services. This hoax caller is not the first or the last. Crank calls are happening with increasingly regularity. Maybe in this case his compulsion was genuine, perhaps he has undiagnosed OCD and needs professional help. But should drug and alcohol abuse be accepted as an excuse? Well, that's okay then. Acknowledge the problem and do nothing to prevent it. Create a new one: let them dial 999 and abuse this service just like they misuse other substances. It's what it's there for.
I'm shocked that some people have no concept of what an emergency is. I've broken a nail. My ex has got custody of my cat and I want her back. Now! Others are more conniving, getting the paramedics called out by pretending to be unconscious. They know exactly what to do get an ambulance. Flashing blue lights and wailing sirens. Attention seeking time-wasters. What happened to respecting our emergency services? The job they do, the lives they save, the service they provide every single day, every 24 hours.
Dial 999 to save a life, not endanger it.