New Year’s Eve in the UK: The 999 service’s busiest night of the year – and stupid calls listed

New Year's Eve in the UK: The 999 service's busiest night of the year

I’m not entirely sure why I got sent this press release from BT, but it’s quite interesting stuff, with loads of facts about the almighty surge in 999 calls caused by the mayhem around New Year’s Eve.

The number 999 was launched in London on June 30, 1937 after a fire at a London doctor’s surgery in November 1935 led to the tragic death of five women. A committee was then set up by the government to look at the problem of how telephone operators could identify emergency calls, this then resulted in the creation of the 999 line.

999 service gears up for the busiest night of the year

The emergency services 999 line has provided a lifeline for members of the public to contact the Police, Fire, Ambulance or Coastguard for the last 80 years. It is the most memorable number in the UK and provides a vital service.

Six BT call centres handle the nation’s 999 calls in Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales and the North of England, passing calls to the relevant emergency service.

In the past year, BT’s committed team handled more than 34 million calls at an average of 93,000 per day. Of those calls connected to the emergency services, 49% were for the Police, 47% Ambulance, 4% Fire and less than 1% for the Coastguard.

As most people are winding down to enjoy the festive celebrations, calls to 999 are expected to surge, with teams working around the clock to deal with the demands.

Ian Watson, 999 Manager at BT, commented: “Our busiest period of the year is from about 9pm on New Year’s Eve to 3am on New Year’s morning when we receive almost half a day’s calls in just six hours with a peak of up to 9,000 calls per hour.”

Jane Larkin, Control Room Manager at North Yorkshire Police, stresses the demand on the Police service, commenting: “During the festive period, the public still need the assistance of the emergency services who are on duty 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to provide a service. Traditionally from the Friday evening before Christmas up to New Year’s Day police forces deal with many extra calls.

The majority of these calls are from people in genuine need of policing services such as reporting people as missing, concern for people’s safety, attendance at serious road traffic collisions and violent incidents where excessive drinking has been a factor. In recent years there have also been requests for assistance caused by extreme seasonal weather patterns, such as flooding and heavy snow conditions.”

The 999 line handles thousands of critical calls but also some less well-judged requests. Calls that the police have received include:

“The Off Licence has closed early”
Requests for instructions on how to defrost a turkey
Requests for a lift home from the Police because no taxis are available.
“What time does Sainsbury’s close?”
“Can I apply to the Police Station for a licence for Santa’s sleigh?”
“My mobile phone is not working – can you help?”
A report of someone who is not sleeping very well – can the Police recommend a solution?
A man woke at home after drinking heavily wearing a pair of handcuffs and wanted to know how to remove them.

Jeremy Brown, Head of Emergency Operations Centre at West Midlands Ambulance Service commented: “Our staff work incredibly hard to make sure people get the help that they need as quickly as possible. On average they answer the call within just three seconds of it being put through by our colleagues at BT.

At this time of year when our teams are dealing with a high volume of calls, we would urge people to think carefully before calling 999. The line exists to help in an emergency and calling unnecessarily distracts from those in need. If you are unsure whether to ring, try the 111 service first as even if you need an ambulance, it won’t delay help coming.”

As the front-line response team at BT and the emergency services gear up for the busiest night of the year, the public are advised to be mindful and only dial 999 in the case of an emergency.

The stupidest calls

Three years ago, the Met Police releases the top ten most idiotic 999 calls and it’;s a formidable list of stupidity:

1. A woman calling to say she had bought a cold kebab and the shop would not replace it

2. Callers who missed their alarm and were going to be late for a flight wanting officers to take them to the airport.

3. A woman who had seen a clown in London selling balloons for £5 each, which was much more than other clowns were charging.

4. Callers in distress because their low-fuel indicator light had come on.

5. A man calling to say his 50p coin was stuck in a washing machine at his local launderette and he wanted police to retrieve it.

6. A man who did not have change for a parking machine claiming staff at a car park had kidnapped him because they were refusing to let him out for free.

7. A caller who dialled 999 at 4am on a Saturday morning and asked: “Where is the best place to get a bacon sandwich right now?”

8. A man who called 999 as he was advised to call 111 but did not know the number.

9. A woman who wanted police to deal with a couple of noisy foxes outside her home as they were preventing her from sleeping.

10. A woman who dialled 999 to say there were men in her house trying to take her away. The men in question were police officers who had come to arrest her.

The advice is: Think carefully before calling 999. And if you need to contact the police in a non-emergency, you can call 101.

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