During the months of July and August this year ER24 received over 670 calls to the Emergency Contact Centre that were listed as prank calls. Over 340 calls were received from one specific caller and over 200 calls from another caller.
Pranksters phone the 084 124 emergency line and either swear at the Emergency Call Takers or play practical jokes over the phone, some of the pranksters only breath into the microphone on the other end of the line.
The prank calls range from annoying hang-ups to outright false calls or bomb threats. In most countries prank calls to emergency services or emergency lines are considered a criminal offence.
What pranksters don’t realise is that with our Forced Caller Line Identity we are able to view the number of the caller whilst the call is still in the que to be answered by an Emergency Call Taker. Once the number is recognised as a potential prank caller, the call taker alerts the floor supervisor and the voice recording is flagged for investigation. We have to treat every single call as a real emergency and resources must be dispatched if an address is given.
According to our voice recording and dispatch system some pranksters continue to phone the 084 124 emergency line up to 16 times per day. As an emergency line we cannot block the numbers in case the person has a real emergency which we have to act upon. However, each time a call is identified as a prank call, the caller’s telephone number is sent for follow up and the call is investigated according to internal policies. Once the investigation proves that the caller is a frequent prankster, the telephone number and other information are handed over for possible civil action.
One prank caller in particular keeps on phoning the emergency line to report a friend that had a heart attack. This caller reported similar cases over 60 times in one month. Each time the Emergency Medical Dispatcher treats the call as a real emergency when accurate details are given and an ambulance along with a rapid response vehicle is then sent to the location. However, every time an emergency vehicle arrives on the scene, there is no one at the address or it is an abandoned building.
A majority of the calls placed are from children laughing in the background or trying to sound like an adult. Once the Emergency Call Taker start to engage with the caller to enquire about medical information on the scene, the child either hangs up or starts laughing. In one particular case the Emergency Call Taker asked the child if there is an adult close by and the child handed the phone to his mother. The mother was shocked when she heard that the call taker was from ER24 and her child phoned the emergency line to fool around and she apologised profusely. Needless to say the child phoned multiple times afterwards.
ER24 takes all of its emergency calls seriously and our aim is to provide fast and efficient emergency medical care. Pranksters clogging up emergency lines will be dealt with in a serious matter.