London Fire Brigade

Hoax calls drop as phone boxes gather dust, says London Fire Brigade

28 August 2013

Hoax calls made to the London Fire Brigade’s 999 control centre have dropped by 48 per cent in the last seven years, Brigade officials said today.

In 2012/13, the Brigade received 7,013 hoax calls, and mobilised fire engines for 1,726 of them, which cost taxpayers over half million pounds. In 2006/7, the LFB received 13,169 hoax calls, including 3,403 incidents where fire engines were mobilised. Control officers, who are now trained to challenge suspicious calls, are dealing with fewer hoax calls than ever before. In addition to this, fire engines are no longer mobilised to abandoned calls from phone boxes.

Brigade officials have speculated that the rise in children with mobile phones has influenced the significant drop in hoax calls over the last seven years.

According to a recent survey, the average British child gets their first phone a few months before they turn 12, though nearly one in 10 has a phone by age five.

Assistant Commissioner Richard Chandler, who is responsible for mobilising, said:

“Hoax calls were easier when kids could just pop into a phone box, but now everyone has mobile phones and the numbers are traceable. It’s a little less tempting when you know that the people you’re hoaxing have your number.

“Repeat offenders can have their phones cut off entirely, and our control officers are specially trained to challenge suspicious callers to check that they’re genuine.

“It’s great that we’ve seen such an amazing drop over the last few years, but as the summer holidays draw to a close,  it’s important that parents continue to teach their children that hoax calls are pointless and dangerous, and that we take them very seriously.”

Hoax calls are fake calls made to 999, where there is no real emergency. These calls divert control officers from answering genuine 999 calls and can take up crews’ valuable time, which may prevent them from getting to someone quickly in a real emergency. The Brigade takes all its calls very seriously.

Notes to editors:

A montage of hoax calls from August 2013 is available on YouTube.

Calculation of cost for attended malicious calls is based on the Authority’s standard figure for £290 per call out.

Malicious calls are defined as when the Brigade sends fire engines and firefighters to a call that turns out to be a hoax.

Non attended calls are defined as when control officers suspect a call is a hoax and do not mobilise fire engines.

Malicious calls have gone down by 83 per cent in the last ten years. In 2003/4, the Brigade received 10,182 malicious calls. In 2012/13, the Brigade took 1,726 malicious calls.

Non attended calls have gone down by 46 per cent in the last seven years. In 2006/7, the Brigade received 9776 non attended calls. In 2012/13, that figure was 5,287.