I've just finished reading "Help, I'm Trapped in My Duvet", which is a selection of emergency calls compiled by Howard Lester; it has calls from people who can only be charitably described as idiots both in the UK and America. These people have been wasting the emergency services time with calls that never were emergencies, by the largest stretch of the imagination.
Here is a small selection from the book, which gives a feel for the kind of individual who makes these calls.
An American man once called 911 because he could see the shadow of a `huge angry looking creature standing in his yard. He described the intruding creature as being about 6ft gin tall. It turned out to be his own shadow, cast by the porch security light.
Caller: Hi, I need medical help.
Operator: What is the nature of your emergency?
Caller: I have real bad stomach pain and I am finding it difficult to stand up.
Operator: I can call you an ambulance. How long have you had your symptoms?
Caller: Since I ate.
Operator: What did you eat?
Caller: A family tub of KFC, two Whopper Burgers, large coke, fries and ice-cream.
Operator: That's just you? By yourself?
Caller: Yeah, I'm on my own. I think I ate too much. Can you die from eating too much in one sitting? How much would you have to eat? Do I need to go to hospital?
Operator: You've eaten too much? Were you fine before you ate?
Caller: Yes, I think maybe I've eaten too much.
Operator: You probably don't need medical attention at this stage.
Caller: OK. Goodbye then.
A mother called an ambulance for her son who was sleeping and `making a funny noise' when he breathed. It turned out that he was just snoring.
A man called the emergency number whilst he was being arrested for driving without a license and complained to the emergency services that two police officers were harassing him and he didn't know why. He didn't realise that he was being put through to the same people that were in the process of arresting him.
Operator: 911, Can you tell me what your emergency is?
Caller: Yes, my wife's being attacked by a huge dog and I need an ambulance."
Operator: Ok, we're sending an ambulance to you right now. Can you give me your address?
Caller: 48766 Sycamore Drive.
Operator: Can you spell that please?
Caller:(long silence) Er... no. Look I'll drag her over to Langton Street and you can come and get her there.
A man called 999 because he thought he saw someone driving his car and assumed it had been stolen. The police took down his registration number and set out to look for the car. They couldn't find it anywhere. When he got home he saw that his car was still on the driveway and realised that he'd made a mistake. He then tried to pretend to the police that the thief must have brought the car back again. The police were not impressed.
Unlike the recent hoax call by some young lads messing around by the seaside, there is no intention to deceive anyone. It's just thoughtlessness.
I myself have probably been guilty of ringing 999 incorrectly on one occasion. I was driving back up towards Mont es Croix, when just around where the road branches to Beauport Bay, I spotted around five cows meandering along the Beauport road, clearly having escaped from their field. It was dark, and it was clear that this was a hazard, especially if they went onto the main road, so I rang 999 to tell the police, who took the details, and said they would refer the matter to the honorary police. As this was around 11 pm at night, someone probably cursed me.
But the correct response is to contact the police station, rather than ring 999. As a Metropolitan Police spokesman said on the subject of 999 calls: "It's for use when an immediate response is required. Non-emergency calls are to go through to the local police station. You work on the premise that if crime is happening now, or if someone is in immediate danger, it's 999"
Yet the report on the use of 999 calls by the BBC asked "how many people actually know the number of their local cop shop". I didn't know the number of the police station, and it was not programmed into my mobile phone. So what was I to do? Ignore the matter, and let the cows wander off down the road?
Perhaps we all need to ensure we do have our local police HQ number in the mobile phone, so that if incidents occur, we can ring the station directly rather than clogging up the emergency services.
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