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EMERGENCY.. THE ZIP ON MY DRESS IS STUCK; 999 wasters blasted.

Byline: EMMA BRITTON

A WOMAN dialled 999 after her zip broke and she got stuck in her dress.

And a girl unable to cope when her hair extensions began to fall out decided the only way to deal with the disaster was to call the cops.

They were just two examples highlighting shock figures which prove only one in ten 999 calls in Scotland are actually genuine emergencies.

Scotland's police, ambulance, fire and coastguard services will today launch a major crackdown on nuisance calls.

Scottish Ambulance Service assistant chief officer, Bob Murphy, warned: "Waste of time is a waste of life.

"The Glasgow Ambulance Service last year took 75,392 calls, and approximately 40 per cent of those were not life-threatening.

"Callers wanted help to wrap Christmas gifts and request an ambulance for a fashion photo shoot because the blue lights would look good."

Emergency services say people genuinely in need are not able to get through because of such irresponsible individuals.

Strathclyde Police received almost 400,000 emergency calls last year.

Of that number, 32 per cent were silent calls, 19 per cent were time-wasters, 34 per cent were non-urgent and 3.5 per cent were abusive.

Scotland's largest police force aims to answer 90 per cent of 999 calls within 10 seconds but that target is being compromised because of nuisance calls.

Assistant Chief Constable Ricky Gray said: "This is a problem being experienced by all four emergency services in the Strathclyde area.

"If we can educate people on the proper use of the emergency number, and target the worst offenders for misusing the system, then we will see significant reductions."

Other key offenders are toddlers playing with the phone, hoax callers, and mobile phone users who have no idea they can accidentally dial 999, even with the keypad locked.

The new initiative will use a number of measures to combat misuse.

Silent calls will be put through to a pre-recorded message asking the caller to confirm if he or she has an emergency situation.

If the caller responds by pressing 5 on the keypad they are put through to the desired emergency service, if the caller fails to respond, the call is terminated.

A text-messaging system will be used to send direct messages to callers who persistently make silent calls from their mobile phone, or to repeat hoax-call offenders.

BT's Nuisance Call Bureau will send letters to offenders who make abusive emergency calls and persistent offenders could face court action.
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Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:May 7, 2002
Words:413
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