I will never understand why some people think it is funny or clever to hoax call the emergency services. Hoax calls cost lives. Whilst ambulance crews drive round in circles trying to find patients that don’t exist and accidents that never happened, and control staff waste hours on the phone trying to determine the location of fictitious incidents, other, genuine patients are put in danger.
The vast majority of hoaxes come from children, most of whom, I hope, get a stern talking to from their parents when the ambulance turns up (children tend not to realise that we can trace any landline call, and the owner of any registered mobile!) and never do it again. There are also a fair few from older teenagers, who, I’m guessing, are doing it for a dare. This type of hoax is pretty easy to spot; the diagnosis is usually blurted out in a rehearsed manner and involves “someone” and a medical diagnosis rather than the more usual description of what has happened. (“Someone’s broken their leg!” as opposed to “My brother fell down the stairs and his leg hurts!”) The caller usually hangs up on further questioning, usually without giving an address. If they do give an address, it’s usually a main road. I can’t ever remember taking a hoax call and not realising it was a hoax at the time, which makes it all the more frustrating because unless we’ve already been to the address that day, we have to treat every single call as if it were genuine.
Somewhat more sinister are the regular hoaxers. We’ve had a few of thesever the years. Some have been prosecuted but some we never find. If a caller uses an unregistered mobile or a payphone to call, it’s pretty much impossible to trace them. There was one young woman who called us every night for months, giving an address near her own every time. When she was eventually traced it was found she was mentally ill and had an obsession with ambulances. Her bedroom wall was covered with pictures of them and she was calling 999 just so she could see one outside. There was also a spate of hoaxes to one address which were believed to be coming from the ex partner of the person who lived there. They always gave outlandish reasons such as “house on fire” “plane crash” and on one occasion, “my wife has cut my testicles off and cooked them in the over”.
This week, we’ve been utterly inundated with calls from possibly the most annoying hoaxer ever. He’s been calling us for a couple of months now, but this week the call rate has gone through the roof. I’d say he is calling a couple of hundred times a day. Each call taker will end up speaking to him around ten times per shift. Of course, we’ve had his mobile cut off, but he just goes out and buys a new one, and he’s back again. He gives his address as 20, [long and well known road], E1. The address he gives doesn’t, strictly speaking, exist – the road covers more than one postal area, and number 20 isn’t in E1. In actual fact, as we discovered the first time we were called out there, number 20 is a Woolworths.
This guy thinks he is *hilarious*. He loves to give his diagnosis as “itchy penis” and I think this is just because he is amused by the word “penis”. Sometimes he will just call up and laugh and say that he needs an ambulance because he or his girlfriend (surely a moron like this cannot possibly have a girlfriend?) cannot stop laughing. Sometimes he will just sing his “address” at us and laugh hysterically. He knows that we cannot hang up on someone if they say they need an ambulance so he will always maintain that he needs an ambulance, despite rarely giving a coherent reason for doing so. Lately, he has given up on giving any medical reasons for needing us whatsoever – instead he will alternately offer the call taker a banana, or request that a banana is brought to him. According to one rather exasperated emergency operator I spoke to, when asked “Emergency, which service? Police, fire or ambulance?” he replied “Greengrocer”.
If I didn’t think it would lose me my job, I would quite happily post Mr Banana’s phone number up on my blog and encourage every single reader to call him, preferably at 3 in the morning, and offer him random items of fruit and veg and see how HE likes it.