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Senior emergency service staff condemn hoax callers as scale of problem in Cheshire is revealed; Figures have been obtained via Freedom of Information requests (FOI).

Byline: Andrew Cain

Senior figures from the police, fire and ambulance services have condemned those who make hoax calls to the emergency services as the scale of the problem in Cheshire is revealed.

Figures obtained byCheshire Livethrough multiple Freedom of Information (FOI) requests have unearthed the number of hoax calls made to the emergency services throughout 2018.

And although the data varied throughout the different services, senior personnel from Cheshire Constabulary, Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service and North West Ambulance Service were all united in their condemnation of those who make such calls.

We asked all three services about the number of malicious or hoax calls they received throughout the calendar year 2018, as well as where in Cheshire the calls were made from, and how much dealing with these calls costs the services financially.

Cheshire Fire and Rescue Servicesaid that their system for recording abandoned and malicious calls divides them into two overarching categories - those attended by fire crews, and those not attended.

In 2018, the service received a total of 421 such calls which they did not attend (391 abandoned calls; 30 malicious calls).

However the service also recorded 96 calls that they did attend, which were found to be malicious calls upon their arrival.

The attended calls are divided up as below.

Additionally, the data from CFRS also revealed that the top five areas hoax calls were received from wereWarrington,Runcorn, Crewe, Chester and Ellesmere Port, however they were unable to reveal the cost to the service due to the individual circumstances of each incident.

Andy Gray, arson reduction manager at Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service, said: "Hoax calls put the community and firefighters at risk by making them respond to emergencies which don't exist.

"For the past few years the numbers have remained roughly the same and this currently wastes our firefighters' valuable time and also public money.

"We want people to think about the consequences of making a hoax call. Anyone caught making a hoax call could have their mobile phone disconnected, they could face criminal charges and even a prison sentence. Is it really worth it?"

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Crewewas the place where paramedics most often received hoax calls in 2018, according to data from theNorth West Ambulance Service.

The service received a total of 92 such calls in 2018, with calls from the CW1 postcode being the most frequent with 8.

The CH65 area ofEllesmere Portand the CH2 area ofChesterwere next, both with 7; while the CH41 and CH42 areas of Birkenhead and the Wirral were joint third with 6 each.

A spokesman for the service added that the cost of each call to NWAS would depend on the point when the incident is classed as a hoax, but provided this general breakdown of costs to the service:

- Cost per 999 call: [pounds sterling]11.56

- Cost to be reviewed on the telephone by a clinician: [pounds sterling]27.25

- Cost to receive an ambulance and be treated at home: [pounds sterling]144.94

- Cost to receive an ambulance and be taken to hospital: [pounds sterling]211.96

A spokesman for North West Ambulance Service NHS Trust said: "Making a 999 call for anything that isn't a life-threatening or serious emergency simply puts lives at risk by taking up valuable time and resources for not only ourselves, but also our emergency service colleagues.

"Our emergency control centres handle around 4,000 emergency calls every day and only a relatively low number are hoax calls compared to the number of calls for real incidents. However, any call that is not a medical emergency can prevent or delay ambulance crews getting to the genuinely sick people who are in the most need for urgent help.

"We have worked to increase our use of social media to raise awareness of the service and how to use it appropriately which we hope has helped to make people understand the importance of only dialing 999 in the event of a real emergency."

Cheshire Constabularysaid that due to a recent change to the force's systems, they were unable to search for data beyond March 2018 and that even in those circumstances, the number of data lines to search through meant that they were unable to provide figures pertaining to our request.

However Superintendent Deborah Hooper was united with her fire and ambulance service colleagues in her condemnation of those who make hoax emergency calls, saying that police will actively pursue those who abuse the 999 system and deal with them appropriately.

Supt Hooper said: "Hoax calls waste the time of the emergency services and could cost lives. What initially might seem like a bit of harmless fun could potentially compromise the response of the emergency services for someone genuinely in need of our help.

"This sort of behaviour is unacceptable and any abuse of the 999 system will not be tolerated. We will do all we can to trace those responsible for this type of behaviour and ensure they are dealt with appropriately."

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Publication:Chester Chronicle (Chester, England)
Date:Feb 10, 2019
Words:915
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