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Fire chiefs are asking parents to teach their children about the dangers of hoax calls ahead of the school holidays and a week of industrial action by the Fire Brigades Union.
The warning is even more important next week as firefighters are on strike for 15 two hour strikes over eight consecutive days starting on Monday, 14 July.
In 2013/14, the Brigade received 3,172 hoax calls, and mobilised fire engines to 1,424 of them, which cost taxpayers nearly half a million pounds. In 2006/7, firefighters went to 3,403 incidents which turned out to be hoax calls. Control officers, who are 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 public phone boxes.
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.
London Fire Commissioner Ron Dobson said:
“Hoax calls waste our time and resources whenever but while the Fire Brigades Union are taking strike action and we only have contingency levels of cover it is even more important that we don’t get any hoax calls. It’s important that parents continue to teach their children that hoax calls are pointless and dangerous.”
The Brigade has plans in place to provide a contingency level of emergency cover across the capital during the strike, and a fire engine will be sent to emergencies including fires in people’s homes, vehicle fires, road accidents and collapsed buildings.
These plans were never intended to match the Brigade’s day-to-day cover so while strike action is taking place a fire engine may not be sent to less urgent and non-life-threatening incidents. These could include rubbish fires (including fires in bins and skips), fires on open ground, animal rescues, flooding, people stuck in lifts and gas leaks.
Notes to editors
Cost is calculated at 1,424 incidents x £290 plus VAT = £495,552.
Fire Brigades Union are on strike on the following dates
Monday, 14 July – Thursday, 17 July 6am – 8am and 5pm – 7pm.
Friday, 18 July 6am – 8am and 11pm – 1am Saturday morning.
Saturday, 19 July 11am – 1pm and 11pm – 1am Sunday morning
Sunday, 20 July 5pm – 7pm
Monday, 21 July 6am – 8am and 5pm – 7pm
During the strike firefighters will attend:
Serious fires – like those in Londoners’ homes – confirmed by a 999 call
Fires that involve gas cylinders or hazardous substances.
Vehicle fires or boat fires
Fires at railway stations and rail and road tunnels or fires involving people in underground tunnels
Aircraft or train crashes
Road traffic collisions