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Hoax emergency calls putting lives at risk

Ambulances and fire crews in Northern Ireland have had to respond to more than 15,000 hoax call outs in the last five years, it was revealed today.

Emergency services have attended more than 2,500 prank reports in the past 12 months alone, according to the Department of Health.

Since 2004, firefighters were maliciously duped 6,150 times while paramedics responded to 9,022 fake calls for help.

The figures were obtained by SDLP Assembly member Thomas Burns through a written question to Health Minister Michael McGimpsey's officials.

The South Antrim representative said the tally of hoax calls was not only wasting valuable resources but also putting lives at risk.

"The emergency services have to treat every 999 call as urgent and cannot assume that any call is a prank, but every time a crew is sent out it costs money in staff time and equipment," he said.

"The resources for Health, Social Services and public safety are stretched thinly enough as it is. They don't need to be put under further unnecessary pressure by idiots making fake calls.

"People need to realise that hoax calls don't just cost money, they could cost lives. This huge volume of prank calls means that firemen and paramedics who should be attending genuine emergencies are tied up responding to malicious false alarms.

"Calling out ambulances or the fire brigade 'for a laugh' is absolutely criminal and people who engage in such behaviour should be treated as such. I want to see them named and shamed."

The number of fake calls has dropped over the last 12 months, down from the 3,107 made in 2007/08, and Mr Burns said he hoped that showed the message was getting through.

"Don't make hoax calls," he added.

"It's a waste of precious time and resources and puts people's lives at risk."

Belfast Telegraph

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