Hoax calls to the emergency services in Northern Ireland are costing more than £3 million a year, it has been disclosed.
Details of the vast amount of taxpayers' money being wasted because of ambulances as well as the fire and rescue responding to false alarms were given by health minister Edwin Poots.
The estimated £3.16 million a year - equal to £9,000 a day - was a massive drain on resources, he said. It was a staggering and totally abhorrent waste of money which could have been spent elsewhere.
He added: "To put this into context, £3 million could have been spent on more than 212,000 hours of domiciliary care, over 75,000 treatments by a physiotherapist in the community, around 250 coronary artery bypass grafts or over 5,000 weeks in a nursing home for an elderly person."
As well as the financial cost of hoax calls, people, he said, should also be mindful of the very real risk they posed to human life.
Mr Poots said: "Let's be clear - hoax calls can cost lives. No firefighter or ambulance service personnel can be in two places at once. If a crew is called out in response to a hoax call, that crew won't be around to attend a genuine emergency - a domestic fire, heart attack or serious road traffic collision.
"Hoax calls simply will not be tolerated and people who engage in this malicious activity should be aware of the penalties of doing so. If convicted of this criminal offence, a person can face imprisonment and a £5,000 fine."