Winning the war against hoax callers

FIRE authorities in Suffolk and Essex are bucking the national trend and winning the war against hoax callers, it has been revealed.Gary Phillips, assistant chief fire officer of Suffolk fire service, said a total of 214 nuisance calls were handled between February 2005 and February 2006, costing between £25,000 and £30,000.

FIRE authorities in Suffolk and Essex are bucking the national trend and winning the war against hoax callers, it has been revealed.

Gary Phillips, assistant chief fire officer of Suffolk fire service, said a total of 214 nuisance calls were handled between February 2005 and February 2006, costing between £25,000 and £30,000.

This is a 30% reduction compared to the same period in 04/05 when a total of 305 similar calls were received, he said.

And there has also been a significant drop in Essex over the last few years.


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ACFO Phillips' comments came towards the end of Hoax Calls Awareness Week, an initiative coordinated by BT and supported by the Fire and Rescue Service in a bid to highlight the issue, which delays response time to real emergencies and puts lives at risk.

ACFO Phillips said: “We are absolutely delighted with the reduction in hoax calls but it has not been by accident as we were very proactive in this area over the last 12 months.

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“We visit schools, community groups and youth centres to educate people about how dangerous these types of calls can be and so far things have been very successful.

“We also have a Caller Challenge, where an operative can confront a person if they think they are making a malicious call, identify them and then track them to where they are making a call.

“This allows then allows us to be more aggressive in the number of prosecutions that we can bring and we have worked in partnership with the police to bring this about.”

He added: “Malicious calls not only mean we are unable to send resources to a real incident where someone's life could be in danger but also we often have crews working within the community on issues such as fire safety and when they get called away to a hoax that education is disrupted. It is a waste of time and public money.”

Meanwhile, in Essex hoax calls have fallen from 1,599 a year in 2003 to 1,283 a year in 2005. Over the same period they fell from 312 to 214 in Colchester and Tendring, from 137 to 88 in Chelmsford and Maldon and from 102 to 88 in Uttlesford and Braintree.

Stuart McMillan, spokesman for Essex County Fire and Rescue Service, said: “Each hoax call out costs a great deal of time and consumes valuable resources. Most importantly it costs lives. It means that we are not available to protect the public when and where we should be.

“When we receive a hoax call, it removes fire cover from where it may be needed and that includes you, your family and friends.

“We now have the technology to trace all calls, even those made from mobile phones and we do cut phones off.”

According to national figures the Fire and Rescue Service in England and Wales responds to about 50,000 hoax calls every year, or 135 per day. With each hoax costing £1,700, that makes £230,000 a day - or £84m a year.

London Fire Brigade has the highest hoax call rate in the UK, attending nearly twice as many call-outs, 9,686, as the second worst affected brigade, Greater Manchester, 5,268, and the West Midlands, 4,074.

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