When news happens send us your pictures, video and views. Text BE to 80360 or contact us by email
Lives at risk - 700 hoax calls made to fire service
LIVES are at risk because Dorset’s fire service is being targeted by hoax callers.
Figures obtained by the Dorset Echo show that over the last five years Dorset Fire and Rescue Service has been plagued by more than 700 hoax callers.
The service has also had to respond to nearly 20,000 false alarms during that period.
The figures supplied following a Freedom of Information request by the Dorset Echo show that, while the number of hoax calls made to the fire service is decreasing year on year, the service still had 122 incidents during the 2012/13 financial year.
Chief fire officer Darran Gunter said the service is determined to maintain the downward trend.
He warned there would be ‘serious consequences’ if fire engines responding to a hoax call were needed at a real emergency.
He said: “Dorset Fire and Rescue Service is committed to reducing false alarms and hoax calls, ensuring that fire engines and crews are available to deal with real emergencies as and when we are needed.
“To this end we have been working hard over the last five years to reduce hoax calls.
“We have a strong call challenge policy which is utilised by our fire control staff when they believe a hoax call is being made.”
He added: “We would encourage any child or member of the public who might be thinking about making a hoax call, not to.
“When our fire control operators and fire crews are dealing with these types of incident, they are distracted from real emergencies.
“This can mean that it takes us longer to answer a 999 call or takes more time to a fire engine to reach those who really need it.
“They are some really serious consequences.”
The information also shows that the service dealt with over 4,000 false alarms last year and a total of 19,595 over the previous five years.
Mr Gunter said: “Of course we never attend false alarms, every call is treated as a real emergency and subsequently on arrival we may find that our service is not required.
“This can be due to electrical defects in alarms, potential smell of burning etc all of which may be later grouped as false alarms.”
Service that takes no risks: Even if there's doubt - we go
A VISIT to fire control reveals just how much of an inconvenience hoax calls could be.
The team are busy dealing with major, often life-threatening incidents, and have to assume all calls are genuine.
As I walk in White Watch are busy dealing with a serious road traffic collision in Poole.
The flashes of red on the screen are a clear indication that an incident is in progress and I sit and watch while the team get on with it.
Fortunately a fire engine is close to the scene and is able to get there within moments but the fire control team’s job is not done as they continue to monitor the incident and consider the knock-on effects of committing two fire engines.
There are four operators on shift and I am told there can be up to five and a minimum of three.
After things calm down I am able to chat to watch manager Lynn Warren and she tells me there is no such thing as a typical shift and things can go from quiet to hectic in a split second.
One thing the team certainly don’t want to be dealing with is hoax calls.
Lynn, who has been in her role for over 25 years, says she still gets an adrenaline rush when a major call comes in and its all systems go.
It is obviously an extremely difficult job managing resources over a huge area from Lyme Regis to Christchuch and Weymouth to Gillingham.
Sarah Moore, who spent eight years with the fire control team and is now with the community safety team, uses the giant map on the wall to demonstrate how one fire engine leaving its station to attend a hoax call can leave other areas hugely exposed, particularly in more rural areas.
She also shows this to children to educate them about the knock-on effects of hoax calls and malicious fires.
Lynn says one of the hoax calls she most remembers is a caller vividly describing a road traffic collision on the A35 Puddletown bypass and around 40 firefighters were called out but nothing was found.
Sarah said she remembered someone calling 999 to ask if someone could look out of the window of his local fire station and check if the neighbouring car boot sale was running that day.
There are now protocols in place for challenging calls that may be hoax calls, such as ones from telephone kiosks near schools at the end of the school day.
But Lynn says generally they have to treat each call as if it is genuine because their job is all about responding as quickly as possible.
Sarah added: “If there is any doubt whatsoever we have to go.”
Lost time - how the years compare
2008/9 – False alarms, 3,726 – Hoax calls 201 2009/10 – False alarms, 3,628 – Hoax calls 142 2010/11 – False alarms, 3,940 – Hoax calls 131 2011/12 – False alarms, 4,253 – Hoax calls 137 2012/13 – False alarms, 4,048 – Hoax calls 122 Total – False alarms, 19,595 – Hoax calls, 733 THE fire service has set guidelines for dealing with hoax callers.
The policy states that hoax calls can ‘cost lives, taking valuable resources away from real incidents’ and adds that each hoax call the fire service has to respond to has financial consequences.
Hoax calls are defined in two categories with the first ‘informal’ where a call is made without malice and often involves a young person or child who does not appreciate the implications of their actions.
The second category is formal where a call is made The fire service can liaise with communication companies to identify hoax or nuisance callers and have their phones disconnected for breach of contract.
For more serious offences the police can be contacted and persistent offenders can be prosecuted.
Barn owner slams hoaxers
ANDREW Peters condemned hoax callers for putting people’s lives at risk.
Firefighters tackled a blaze in his barn at Waytown, between Bridport and Beaminster.
Machinery and an old tractor were destroyed in the fire as well as hay and a small amount of firewood.
Mr Peters said: “Someone could die as a result of a hoax call.
“Firefighters could be dealing with hoax when they are needed somewhere else and it could result in someone dying.
“Anybody who does that needs putting up against a wall and shooting basically.”
Comments are closed on this article.