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In a continued bid to drive down non-emergency calls, the London Fire Brigade has revealed the strangest calls to its 999 Control centre.
The Brigade is reminding the public that, while always available in an emergency, firefighters should never be called to fish keys out of drains, retrieve footballs from trees, or shoo rats out of kitchens.
London Fire Brigade’s top 10 weirdest 999 calls:
1. A woman rang because of a spider on her pillow.
2. An elderly woman who heard dogs fighting outside her house threw a glass of water at them, forgetting that her false teeth were inside the glass. She rang 999 to ask for help retrieving her dentures.
3. A concerned dad rang about his son’s shoe, which became stuck on a garage roof. He said it was an emergency because his son wouldn’t be able to play football without it.
4. A nervous-sounding woman called about a squirrel in her kitchen. She made ‘squirrel noises’ down the phone to demonstrate.
5. A hysterical caller rang because her phone fell into the toilet and went round the bend.
6. A woman rang because of a fox in her garden. She was scared she’d get bitten because it had ‘an odd look on its face’.
7. An au pair rang about getting help closing a window. She was worried she‘d get in trouble when her host family came home.
8. One caller wanted help changing a tyre, he claimed it would be the Brigade’s fault if he had an accident.
9. A woman rang to get help for her husband, who was locked in a titanium chastity belt.
10. A panicking woman rang when a bat flew into her kitchen. She was worried she might get rabies.
Third Officer Dave Brown said:
“Our advice is simple – if it’s not an emergency, don’t ring 999. If you’re calling because you have a serious phobia, then arrange for a housemate, friend, or neighbour to help you. If you’re calling because there’s an unexpected animal in your home, call the RSPCA. Firefighters are here for Londoners but we can’t be on speed dial when something trivial happens.
“Control officers are available to take emergency 999 calls 24 hours a day but if people are ringing up with non-emergencies, time and resources are wasted. We are here to respond to real emergencies, so if you do find a squirrel in your kitchen or you lose your keys down the toilet, don’t dial 999.”
In 2012-13 the Brigade received 5,287 calls that it did not send fire engines to – which is over 100 unnecessary calls a week. The Brigade says it’s a waste of time and resources if Control officers are on the phone to people who do not actually need the emergency services.
The Brigade received 178,202 calls to its Control centre in 2012-13.
The calls described are anecdotes from Control officers and as such there is no borough breakdown available.
If there is a real emergency or someone is in danger, dial 999. The Brigade will always respond to emergency calls.
The London Fire Brigade recommends calling the RSPCA for animal rescues. The RSPCA can contact the Brigade if they think our assistance is necessary.