Tuesday, 01 December 2015

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330 hoax calls to Cumbria fire service in 12 months

Hoax callers are risking the lives of residents across Cumbria, with hundreds of malicious calls made in just 12 months.

The stark warning comes from fire service bosses as the News & Star reveals there were more than 330 malicious calls made to Cumbria Fire and Rescue Service in 2013.

Firefighters responded to more than 50 malicious calls – including 16 in westCumbria and 14 in north Cumbria.

Figures released under a Freedom of Information Act request show that 233 of these were classed as “abandoned” – where the caller hangs up.

Another 47 were challenged under a new procedure which entitles call handlers to question the caller if they suspect the call may be false.

Bob Nixon, head of operational support at the fire service, said the number of calls crews across Cumbria had responded to highlighted the very real dangers.

“Hoax calls put lives at risk by potentially diverting fire engines that could be needed at real emergencies,” he stressed.

“People might think making these kind of calls is a harmless bit of fun, but it’s a highly reckless criminal offence that can easily have fatal consequences.”

His concerns were echoed by watch manager Paul Dean who told the News & Star: “Fortunately, I have never been at a hoax when a real call came in, but it could happen.”

He continued: “Say there was a hoax call in Carlisle claiming people were trapped, both the city’s appliances and one from Longtown or Brampton would all be sent to respond. If anything else happened, they would all be busy.”

Typically, hoax callers claim there is a house fire with at least one person inside. “They need to make it as dramatic as possible,” Mr Dean explained.

No action was taken against anyone responsible for last year’s 332 malicious calls, but the fire service is quick to point out it is continually investigating.

Mr Nixon said: “We work closely with the police to catch those responsible and, where we can prove the identity of a hoax caller, we’ll initiate a prosecution that the police can then follow up.

“The penalty for making hoax calls can be a £5,000 fine or up to six months’ imprisonment. We also have an agreement with the mobile phone providers that allows us to cut off the mobiles of those making these types of calls.”

A text message is sent as a warning to any mobile phone suspected of making a hoax call. If it happens a second time then Cumbria Fire and Rescue Service has the power to not only “burn” the SIM card, but also the phone, rendering both useless forever.

This new power and the challenge procedure has helped reduce calls, Mr Dean admitted, but it still does not lessen the effect when it does happen.

“When a call comes in, you have no idea it isn’t genuine,” he said. “When you get there and realise, it’s frustrating; your mood varies between anger and the realisation you have wasted your time.”

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Do you feel safe going to football matches?

1: Yes - there is hardly any trouble compared to the bad old days

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