West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service (WYFRS) has been lifting the lid not only on the financial burden but also the ‘human risk’ posed by malicious 999 calls.
In the last financial year the service has attended 369 hoax calls across the brigade area – more than one a day.
This has come at a cost of almost £155,000 to the service.
Area Manager for Fire Safety, Ian Bitcon said: “Malicious calls pose a real risk to the public. When fire engines are mobilised to the wrong place, they simply are not available should a real emergency be happening elsewhere.
“The fact of the matter is that it’s dangerous and it ultimately puts lives in jeopardy. Not only that, but the financial burden hits the taxpayer in the pocket for something that is a sheer waste of time and money.
“Our message to these pranksters is to think twice because one day it could be their friends or family that genuinely need that fire engine.”
The brigade has taken various steps to reduce hoax calls and the figures show that overall the message is getting through.
For the financial year 09/10 the brigade attended almost double the number of hoax calls (713) - at a cost of almost £300,000.
The brigade tackles pranksters by working alongside police and mobile phone providers.
So far this year, WYFRS has made 31 requests to phone companies to have mobiles disconnected as a result of a malicious call.
Their control staff are also highly trained in call challenging techniques and are often able to detect a malicious call through experience.
Control Room Supervisor Julie Carter said: “We take every 999 call seriously and never disregard a call without thorough investigation.
“Having said that, you’d be surprised how convincing some hoax callers can be. Eventually, however, they tend to trip themselves up, for example, by giving conflicting information.
“Another tell-tale sign is when details given about a location don’t tally with our mapping systems.
“There’s no particular ‘type’ of person who makes hoax calls, it can be young or old alike. For call operators it’s more frustrating than anything else.”
Listen to this hoax call released by WYFRS from June this year.