Hoaxes, sick pets and blocked cars: UAE emergency hotline battles with time wasters
ABU DHABI // Emergency service dispatchers are sick of time-wasters on their hotline, with residents calling daily to report sick pets and bad parking.
Staff at National Ambulance’s Abu Dhabi centre said every non-urgent call wasted two minutes that could be spent on staff handling a genuine emergency.
“Some of the non-emergency calls we get include ‘my car is blocked by another car’ or ‘my electricity has been shut off’,” said dispatcher Ahmed S.
Other calls are from drivers who ask about accidents and emergencies in an effort to avoid travel delays. Some are hoaxes. “They ask, ‘Why is there an ambulance at the mall, was someone hurt? What was wrong with them?,” Ahmed said.
“Sometimes we get calls such as, ‘There is a cat in the road that looks to be dead – you need to move it’.”
Dispatcher Taha Al Oreidi said time-wasting calls were a frustration.
“One guy called me and asked for a foot massage,” he said. “Another day I had a call from Ajman. One boy said there was an accident, but it was a fake call.
“When this happens they are wasting time and resources,” said Mr Al Oreidi.
Tim S, from the communications centre, said: “Just this last week, we had a kid who continued to call us. He called 998 four times just to check if the number was working.
“He then proceeded to tell the dispatcher on the fourth call that he was having a medical emergency. We sent a crew. The kid was not at the scene nor where he said he was.
“We called back and got no answer, so we had to get the police in to be able to follow up this call.”
The “emergency” was a complete hoax, he said.
“So not only did he take up four call-takers, he then took up an ambulance. We followed up with the police and the police followed up with the parents. But this type of behaviour does seem to continue.”
Every day there is an irresponsible or non-emergency call to the centre, he said.
“Another was a lady who was boxed in her car – somebody had double parked behind her – so she called 998.
“Another constant one is somebody calling because their pet needs to go to the hospital and they don’t know where to take their pet, so they call 998 to try to get us to take the pet somewhere. We cannot assist animals – it is not our job.”
Callers who do not have an emergency may prevent others who require immediate assistance from getting through to the 998 number.
“Each time a caller contacts 998 it takes one emergency medical dispatcher away from real emergencies,” Tim said. “These inappropriate calls take, on average, two minutes to ensure they do not need an ambulance and disconnect the call.
“When the ambulance communications centre is busy, the two minutes wasted on these calls can mean a possible delay handling a real emergency.”
Updated: October 7, 2016 04:00 AM