Thursday, September 9, 1999 Published at 10:40 GMT 11:40 UK
Mobile phones clog up 999 service
London Ambulance Service is starting a call screening process
Huge numbers of mobile phone owners are calling 999 after hitting their keypad by mistake, police have revealed.
In June, 12,500 accidental calls were made from mobile phones in London alone.
Staff must spend time assessing each call to decide whether it is a real emergency, using up valuable resources, police said.
Increased mobile phone ownership is being blamed for the extra pressure on the 999 call system.
Wider mobile use also means emergency services are often called several times about the same incident, again using up resources.
'Think before you ring'
A campaign launched on Thursday - chosen for its date, 9.9.99 - aims to cut the number of unnecessary calls.
The campaign, urging people to "think, think, think" before dialling 999 is being spearheaded by the London emergency services.
It is being launched at Scotland Yard with Metropolitan Police chief Sir Paul Condon, LAS chief executive Michael Honey and London Fire Brigade assistant chief fire officer Malcolm Kelly.
Ironically on the same day, a Conservative councillor and police authority member was shamed for dialling 999 after getting stuck in a traffic jam at an agricultural show.
Brenda Ravencroft made the call from her mobile phone when she was delayed on her way from the Royal Norfolk Show in Norwich in June.
Mrs Ravencroft, a member of Norfolk Police Authority, complained that "ordinary people" were being allowed out of the show grounds before agricultural society members.
Norfolk police did not respond to the call.
Norfolk's chief constable, Ken Williams, said police would take no action over the incident but he said Mrs Ravencroft had made an "error of judgment".
The Metropolitan Police, which spends £100m a year on emergency calls, said last year a record two million 999 calls were received.
More than 1.5 million did not require an immediate response.
The London Ambulance Service is introducing a screening process to assess which of the more than one million calls it receives each year require an ambulance.
One in every 20 calls to London's fire brigade are hoax calls - up to 35 a day.
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