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This is not an emergency: Ridiculous calls to 111

Friday 29th May 2015

Is there a rat in your house? Do you need to know how to cook Christmas dinner? Then do not call 111.

Police say they are getting increasingly frustrated at the number of people who call the emergency line with no actual emergency to report.

The issue is getting so bad police are considering establishing a national phone line solely for non-emergency calls.

Last year police communication centres across the country received a total of 1.5 million calls, including about 771,000 111 calls.

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Only a quarter of those 111 calls required a priority one dispatch, meaning a response unit needed to be sent immediately.

Superintendent Dave Trappitt is the national manager of the police communication centres.

He said non-emergency calls clog up the 111 line.

"These calls take up valuable time and may cause a delay for someone in a life-threatening situation," he said.

"It is a serious issue and we would like the public to play their part by using 111 for genuine emergencies."

Trappitt said the issue was getting worse, citing a sharp rise in the number of calls police were getting.

In the first three months of this year, police communication centres received an additional 47,000 calls compared to the same time last year.

Normally police receive about 30 to 40 111 calls in any 15 minute period on a Saturday night, but on a recent weekend that number swelled to 89 calls. Of those 89 calls, just nine of them required an immediate response.

Other calls related to bail reporting and historic events while one caller wanted the police to call a vet.

He said one of the most common calls police get was from people who had run out of credit on their cellphone and couldn't call their local police station.

"A large number of our callers are either unsure of the police station number they can ring for a non-emergency call or they are potentially ringing because they have no money on their phone and they recognise it's a free call.

But Trappitt said police were starting to take a harder line on such callers.

"With the extra pressure coming on the communication centres, there will be some members of the public who have rung 111 recently who would have had a gentle reminder by the police call taker that what they're ringing about isn't an emergency."

"Some of these people may have been put off in the non-emergency cue where they would have experienced a wait until their call was dealt with."

Trappitt said police are in the process of considering whether they should set up a national phone line for non-emergency calls to lighten the load on the emergency line. However, it could take a few months for police to reach a decision and up to a year to roll out.

THIS IS NOT AN EMERGENCY

"I need police here quick because there's a rat in my kitchen."

"I need to know what time the dairy closes. Do you know their number?"

"A bird flew into my window and it's dead. What do I do with a dead bird?"

"It's Christmas, my family are going to be here in two hours, how do I cook a chicken for them?"

"I need a vet, can you call one for me?"

WHEN TO CALL 111

1 - Someone is badly injured or in danger

2 - There is a serious risk to life or property

3 - A crime is being committed and the offenders are still there or have just left

4 - You have come across a major public inconvenience, such as trees blocking a highway

5 - Any of these things are happening now or have just happened

What's the strangest 111 call you've ever heard of? Tell us in the comments.

A version of this story was first published on radionz.co.nz.



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