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Tuesday, 23 November, 1999, 16:28 GMT
999 nonsense
Emergency services receive a host of unusual calls

A family dialling 999 to get the TV fixed is just the latest lunatic call to leave the emergency services fuming.

Problems with knitting and squirrels fighting are just two of the more unusual scenarios that have prompted calls for urgent assistance.

The situation is becoming so serious that one police force has launched a campaign to stop people clogging the 999 system.

Mind-boggling calls
Man complained squirrels were fighting in his garden
Couple handcuffed themselves together and lost the key
Woman called to ask about problems with knitting
Woman on the M1 rang 999 to ask the time
Man asked for help with singing birds keeping him awake
South Yorkshire Police estimates only one in five of the 600 calls they get a day are for real emergencies.

While they happily respond immediately to incidents such as bank raids and car crashes - officers are increasingly worried vital minutes are being used up by trivial calls.

It is not just the police force that is suffering from abuses of the 999 system.

On Monday, it was West Midlands Ambulance Service that responded to a family's call for an ambulance - only to arrive and discover the TV was on the blink.

Ambulance service Wolverhampton area station manager Mark Chapman said the family - who have not been named - failed to understand the 999 system.

"We responded to what we believed to be a genuine incident only to find that they wanted us to repair the TV," Mr Chapman said.

"My concern is that a paramedic crew responded to the call, when they could have been needed elsewhere for a genuine emergency."

'Mind-boggling

Superintendent Graham Cassidy, head of South Yorkshire Police communications department, said: "It's mind-boggling how anybody could think we could assist with a problem with knitting or how anybody driving down the M1 could phone to ask the time.

"The 999 service is for real emergencies. People should realise they are delaying genuine calls."

The new campaign would not mean that genuine emergencies would be ignored, Mr Cassidy stressed.

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See also:
10 Sep 99 |  UK
Mobile phones clog up 999 service
15 Nov 98 |  Health
Hoax calls risk lives
24 Sep 98 |  Health
Patients dial 999 for a broken finger

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