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back to article Hamster-in-rain emergency prompts 999 call

South Wales police force has published a list of top time-wasting 999 calls during the past year in an attempt to convince people not to pick up the phone unless it's really necessary. According to icWales, the highlight of 2007 came when one woman demanded officers come and cuff her boyfriend because he'd put her hamster out in …

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Coat

contest...

Publishing a list of the most idiotic calls will just turn it into a contest, won't it? Just imagine the bragging rights among your peers....

At least that is how it seems to work for the Darwin awards :-)

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Anonymous Coward

What I don't understand is....

Whenever recordings of these sorts of ludicrous 999 calls are played out on telly or the radio, you hear the operator explaining to the idiot who called that Tiddles looking a bit off-colour is not a police emergency.

Why don't the operators just have a button that they can press that will play some sort of "go away, you are an idiot and if you call again we will prosecute you" type recorderd message before cutting them off?

...or just put the phone down on them?

Surely this would same quite a bit of time compared to entering into conversation such callers.

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Heart

poor hamster

I sympathise with the hamster lady. Putting a hamster out in the rain is animal cruelty. Okay so maybe a call to the local police station would be more appropriate but a crime had been comitted.

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Stop

Fine them!

...that's what I say - that might get the message across!

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Joke

1 in 10 ?

If they think that having only one in ten of their calls being a complete waste of time and resources is bad, they've obviously never worked in IT support !

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Happy

May I suggest outsourcing ..

Why don't the police enlist the help of some non-PC people, so that useless time-wasters can be put through to someone who will inform them in no uncertain terms what complete f*cktards they are, and to get a life?

You could almost do a check-list for the caller : Name? Address? Age? Phone Number? Were you born this stupid or did you have to take lessons? ...

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What change?

Whenever I've had cause to ring 999 in England, the response has always been "Emergency, what service do you require?"

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Anonymous Coward

A link to the whole list would be nice

as South Wales Police don't seem to have published it on their website.

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Bronze badge

Blockage

Inappropriate calls are only a problem if they don't provide enough staff, which is probably what's at the bottom of this. They've massaged the figures up as high as they dare to try and cut costs, or have an excuse when they don't do their job.

In my experience the police aren't that interested in solving or even attending crime scenes which only effect non-celebs or can't be spun as terrorism.

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Pot and Kettle?

"For many years we have been trying to educate the public on what is or isn’t a 999 call,"

And for years the public has been trying to educate the police on what are crimes worthy of investigation ..... but if they persist in portraying themselves as a social service rather than law enforcers, what do they expect?

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Anonymous Coward

I have to teach people too...

I had to teach my wife how to get the point over in the first sentence because dick wad telephonists don't have the patience to listen to the person on the other end of the telephone.

For example, she wanted the name of a certified translator from Filipino to French for her mother's visa application. She needed the paperwork translated by someone with official certification in France to do it.

She rang the Philippines's embassy in Paris.

Her: "My mother wants a visa to come visit and...."

Them: (Interjects) "This is the wrong embassy for that, you need to contact the French embassy in the Philippines"

Her: "But I need to ask you..."

Them: "This is the wrong way, the wrong way, you (speaking slowly) neeeeed tooooo contacttt theee Freeeennnnch emmmmbasssssy" (hangs up).

I had to explain to her, telephone operators nowadays are total dicks with zero tolerance of other people's communication skills. There will be a bean counter behind her, counting how many calls she's dealt with in the last hour and so she's keen not to waste time on calls she thinks are wrong. She jumped to a false conclusion based on your first sentence.

When dealing with these operators, you have treat them like the little children they are and GUIDE them to the answer by funnelling them into the channel you want them to be.

I then rang the embassy to show her.

Me: "I'm looking for a translator from Filipino to French, and wonder if you have a list"

Them: "Is it for French legal documents, or just general text"

Me: "It's for my Filipino mother in laws visa application to France".

Them: "Hold the line I'll put you through to someone who can help"

... me then arranges to get the list.

Perhaps they pass a list around of funny calls they've received, and how this stupid Filipino woman rang the Philippines embassy in Paris for a visa from the French embassy in the Philippines. Ha ha how stupid can she be?! (And by implication how clever are we).

But she isn't stupid and you ain't clever.

Did they give the hamster lady the RSPCA number BTW?

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Flame

mental state?

Perhaps the majority of these people are actually diagnosed mentally deficient or retarded in some way and can't help it. This campaign about inappropriate 999 calls will do nothing for these poor people.

Whats wrong with just telling them its grossly inappropriate and just hang up on them? Far less costly than running a 'don't call 999 unless..' campaign.

In such cases it shouldn't take more than five seconds to complete the call, hence freeing up the lines quickly.

I don't understand how such calls can be disruptive to emergency services if they just quickly hang up on them - they're never going to actually stop.

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@Chris Matchett

How on earth is putting an animal outside in the rain cruelty?

A bit of rain would not cause any harm or suffering (which is what cruelty is) to a hamster which in its wild habitat is often, er outside.

Now back to the story. I think these people should be fined for being so stupid. What on earth makes someone phone 999 because they don't have a £1 coin for a supermarket trolley?

I like the suggestion of a standard taped response that can be played to people when they match all or some of the criteria for a muppet.

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Paris Hilton

... and numpties like these are allowed to vote and be on a jury!...

... and their opinions are permitted to be aired on talk radio/blogs (assuming they can write) etc...

My only fix would be for the police to consider it a matter of emergency to remove such fools from the gene-pool...

... but who then would vote for <insert stupid legistlation>?

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Not Just San Diego, et all

Here in Washington state its "911 please state your emergency". It was also that way in Oregon when I lived there. Also, I am pretty sure that if you do a prank call to 911, they send the police (bobbys) over and can fine you if it is flagrant enough.

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Silver badge
Stop

Entitlement culture

Convince people that the state (or other authority organisation if we're going to be fair) is there to provide their every need and, as night follows day, they will turn to the state (or etc) to provide every _want_ that they _perceive_ as a need. Cos they pay taxes/subscription fees/whatever don'tcha know...

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It is all about the numbers....

People can not or will not find the number they need, so use one they know.

So if there was a 3 digit number (like 555 for example) you could dial that would have you connected to your local police station then people would use it for non-emergencies. Clearly it would raise issues with mobiles but with handset signal triangulation it would be possible, O2 used to be able to connect you to your local traffic news by dialing the same number wherever you were.

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Happy

Follow Virgin Media's lead

999 calls should be charged at £1/min which will be refunded if your call really was an emergency.

@F Cage

When I phoned 999 to report some joy-riders breaking into a neighbours car, the police turned up while I was still on the phone and caught the little scrotes red-handed!

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how about 555

hmmm, let's see. I'm in a bit of a flap and feel I need to call for help. What numbers can I remember? 999. Oh, no, maybe I should try and find a phone book or turn on a computer and look up the number of the local station. But I'm all in a tiz. So I'll call the only number I know.

wtf haven't they got a simple number (555?) for non emergency calls that routes locally. It's not difficult. Yes I know there's an 0845 something one but I can't remember that many digits. And I'm not paying some extortionate amount for directory enquiries whose number I can't remember either.....

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Title

Well putting someones hamster outside could be part of an elaborate campaign of torture, but you'd imagine the a caller would mention this.

Its also possible my mind has drifted beyond the point of sanity, what with it being Friday and all.

I propose a solution were people who make crank calls to 999 are automatically added to cold-calling call-centres marketing lists. Many, many times.

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Tom
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It will be Welsh only soon!

In light of the recent developments where a small minority are pushing to make the Welsh language compulsory in all walk of life - I am guessing that it won't be long before the Police will only respond if you tell them in Welsh. In much the same way the Ceredigion County Council were giving priority to Welsh speakers in planning applications, the Police will give priority to those who call 999 in Welsh. Unfortunatly, apart from the Welsh Mafis (Taffia) in the Senydd and Assembly, very few people in South Wales are fluent in Welsh. This means that all 999 calls will be answered by the one bloke in Tonypandy who can speak Welsh. All those that don't speak Welsh will be left to sort out the emergency on their own.

Prynhown da, Heddlu De Cymru, beth ydy dy argyfwng?

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Stop

so what?

even if your call is a life or death emergency, you'll not see a copper for hours or even days, if ever. So it hardly matters that people are blocking up the 999 system with trivial that like this, because (in my experience) the Police are lazy, useless t*ssers who don't give a damn and would rather send a waste-of-time PCSO out a few days later than bother to leave the station themselves.

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Paris Hilton

These are the tame stories

Having spent time in all 3 of the South Wales Police Control rooms I can assure you that these are the tame stories.

When I was in the Cardiff Control room we had the really funny phone calls played back to us. These included a woman with a strange object stuck in her lady bits, a bloke locked in a toilet and the day before yesterday a lady who wanted a lift home as she could not find a taxi.

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Anonymous Coward

Why not charge?

Why not charge £100 to call 999? Personally I wouldn't care if it cost me £100 to call in a real life-or-death emergency whether it was for myself or a complete stranger, but better yet why not have the cost covered by an insurance policy that will reimburse you in the event of it being a real emergency?

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Alert

Maybe this is why they call 999.

Could the reason why people dial 999 for the police station is that they cannot afford to look for whatever 0845/0870 their local police station number is? If the police station had a normal number then people would not have to call the only number they know, which is 999. I remember they were going to try and pilot a different number that is also easy to remember, but is not for emergencies.

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Cruelty?

" I sympathise with the hamster lady. Putting a hamster out in the rain is animal cruelty. Okay so maybe a call to the local police station would be more appropriate but a crime had been comitted."

Doesn't it ever rain in Hamsterland then?

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Coat

It seems to me...

<singing>"It seems to me like you lived your life like a hamster in the rain..."</singing>

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Flame

Police? Emergency? Don't make me laugh.

The police (Scottish: Polis) don't know the meaning of the word 'Emergency'.

Our local police force (Strathclyde) wouldn't turn out for a shooting, so what difference does it make? Whether it takes you a long time or not to get through, you're still not gonna get the copper out of his nice warm station.

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What do they count as a real emergency?

"Help, my little brother is drowning!"

"That's not an emergency, call us when someone's holding a rave miles from human habitation, smoking in a private establishment or wearing a backpack on the Underground."

"But..."

"Please be aware that if you call again with frivolous requests you may be prosecuted nine times in the back of the head."

If a mere 1 in 10 pointless calls risk blocking someone with a genuine emergency, then the emergency services would have to be right on the edge in terms of the ratio of call-centre staff employed to staff required. I'm talking balancing-barefoot-on-a-knife-blade on the edge. Given that this is the emergency services, they almost certainly have enough extra staff that 1 in 10 unnecessary calls make the chances of a genuine caller not getting through - with life-threatening consequences - infinitesmal.

F***ed up police priorities are far more dangerous to the public than hoax or frivolous callers. This an attempt to distract us from the stories of people who call the police over and over again to get rid of chavs vandalising their property with nothing done, then eventually lose their patience, confront the scum on their own, and get stabbed for their pains.

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Alert

It happens to the Fire Brigade as well

Some years ago when London Fire was moving to a new control the ex-directory number for the 999 lines was the same as Kings Cross rail enquiries number except for one digit that was an 8 instead of a 5. As we all know people like doodling and changing 5s to 8s.

Anyway, I once spent several hours working in the control room (prior to official use) with a fire service operator sitting there aanswering calls. There were about 100 calls through the day and only a minority of callers cared that their call was answered "Fire Brigade emergency". A good 50% insisted on continuing to repeatedly ask about train times and only rang of in frustration when the operator essentially refused to answer their query.

Needless to say the number got changed.

The lesson is simple. Callers have a fixed idea of what they expect and if you don't take the time to "deal with them" they just keep ringing back.

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a new number makes sense

Here in Illinois, we call the nationwide standard 911 for emergencies.

I can also call 611 to ring my mobile phone company. I can dial 411 for directory assistance. I can dial 811 to make sure when I dig a hole I'm not into someone's water, sewer, natural gas, or electric service.

311 has been reserved nationwide for non-emergency connection to the emergency services, but very few cities have implemented it. So if I need a police officer (or fire inspector for some reason) but it's not a life-threatening emergency, I need to have a seven-digit, eight, ten, or eleven digit number handy that is different in every town (only seven or ten on my cell, but it might be eight or eleven on a land line because many force one to dial the country code when dialing a number in the same country).

At a payphone, I can sometimes convince the operator to put me through without dropping coins if it's a somewhat-emergency, but payphones are becoming more rare and the phone companies really would rather you called information and then the full number.

I give a big thumbs up to 311 here and 555 or whatever over there. I think it's an idea that would work well everywhere.

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Alert

isn't it 101

Don't they use 101 (or similar, can't actually remember) for non-ermegency calls?

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Anonymous Coward

101 is live - soft of

101 is now used as a non-emergency number for police and local authorities in several areas in England and Wales, and will be extended to cover all of England and Wales by 2008. However, some other numbers are sometimes classed as "emergency": 0800 111 999 for gas leaks, 08 45 46 47 for NHS Direct etc.

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@ those who said just put the phone down

It doesnt work like that. Those that you just put the phone down on will inevitably be stupid enough to call back again, and complain the first person was just plain rude.

Stupid people only understand the meaning of no in one context, when they say it. Other people saying no is "Just being silly".

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Bob
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Woohoo

I know Kevin O'neill, he's a Karate intrustor and 4th Dan. Perhaps the people who make the top 10 can be bound and used as punch bags at his club? A public service if you will...

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Ed

Maybe...

Maybe the hamster was asthmatic?

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Charge for inapropriate calls

Caller ID (except for the ever increasingly rare public phone box) should identify the source number. If the call is inappropriate, slap that number with a £10 to £100 charge.

Once the idiots start to feel it in the wallet they will think before calling.

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Anonymous Coward

101 non emergency

Only been implemented as a "non emergency" number in part of England and Wales, not widespread yet though, and certainly not in Scotland or Ireland.

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Anonymous Coward

@SPiT

My home number is, apart from the 8 on the end rather than 5, the same as a very prominent local solicitors firm.

At first, being out all day, I just got messages on my answerphone. Some left what was obviously sensitive information. Others complained that the message (Hello, leave a message, I'll get back to you) was very unprofessional. Then I switched to flexible working and began answering the calls in person. People would, after being told they had the wrong number several times, STILL ask if they could be put through to their solicitor. Some would ask who and where I was, then act all surprised when I told them it was none of their business!

Anyway, I digress. If the emergency services want to cut out these idiotic calls, then short of an idiot cull, they need to provide a number for non-emergencies that people can remember. Seems like a common sense approach to me.

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Paris Hilton

There should be something like the Darwin awards for these people

Stuff fining them, people have too much disposable income these days. Flog the b***ards!

And in public too. And show it live on Jeremy Kyle because it's well known that most people who make these calls watch daytime TV.

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Linux

just in case people thought Hammy may not be built for the rain

Habitat

Hamsters' northern range extends from central Europe through Siberia, Mongolia, and northern China to Korea. The southern portion of their range stretches from Syria to India. Throughout dry, open country they inhabit desert borders, vegetated sand dunes, shrubby and rocky foothills and plateaus, river valleys, and mountain steppes; some live among cultivated crops. Geographic distribution varies greatly between species. The common hamster, for example, is found from central Europe to western Siberia and northwestern China, but the golden hamster has been found only near a small town in northwestern Syria

- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hamster

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Anonymous Coward

No, no, the best number for time-waster calls would be the universally recognised number...

...404

apparently ^^^ that on its own wasn't good enough to be a comment

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Stop

@andy

"wtf haven't they got a simple number (555?) for non emergency calls that routes locally. It's not difficult."

Have you thought that one through properly? Do you think someone stupid enough to dial 999 because their husband won't let them watch Eastenders is going to have the brains to weigh up their options and dial 555 instead? They already assessed the situation and concluded that the appropriate course of action was to call the emercancy services. It's like saying off-licences should be made to stock alchohol free drinks alongside the beer and spirits so that alchoholics can choose to buy them instead of booze...

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@ SPiT

"A good 50% insisted on continuing to repeatedly ask about train times and only rang of in frustration when the operator essentially refused to answer their query."

The poor fire service operator should have replied, "we're terribly sorry, but British Rail has canceled all trains today because the scheduling office has been deluged with calles from useless tossers trying to report fires."

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@Chris Matchett

> Putting a hamster out in the rain is animal cruelty.

So you think that in the wild they have little wellies, plastic macs and sou'westers?

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999 what jokers

I rang 999 last year, time 7.00am, month January, the conversation went something like this -

Operator - "Emergency, how can I help you?"

Me - "Hello I want to report a car parked facing southbound on the outside lane of the northbound carriage of the M18"

Operator - "Can you say that again, I wasn't listening"

Me -" I want to report a car facing southbound in the outside lane of the northbound M18, it's about 1/2 miles north of Junction 3"

Operator - "Did you get the make and color of the car?"

Me - "I'm a passenger in a car heading souhbound at 70 mph but you'll probably find that it's the only car facing southbound n the northbound carriagewa"

Operator - " Oh yes it was reported 15 minutes ago"

Me - "But the Police Station is only 5 minutes away at normal speeds"

Operator - "Yes sir, is there anything else I can do to help you?"

Funnily this call is never shown as one of those time wasting calls.

btw I never did find out what make and model he car was.

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Coat

Goldmine!

@ coward

You've trained your wife to get the message across in the first sentence?

You should write a book. Then retire.

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Paris Hilton

@ Goldmine!

That's nothing. My wife gets the message across with out saying anything, just the look is enough. ;-)

Paris because she gets the message across with a different kind of look!

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Wrong numbers

Yes, We've all had them. It is more amusing to actually KNOW what number they were dialing. At one time I had a number that was close to a real estate guru (bozo, I could care less). I was tired of people calling me up so I just went ahead and confirmed all the golf dates he had. It didn't take long before the guy handed out the correct number. I have also done this with a eatery, taking reservations (lots) for 7pm or so. So much BOFH type fun!!

Yes, here (USA) we have the 311 service (non-urgent alternative) and 911 (emergency). A local late night talk show plays the "idiot tapes" every once in a while. Quite interesting.

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911 calls

In my town (southwestern Amurka), residents are told to call 911 for *anything* that looks suspicious since the police statistics database is fed by 911 call logs (e.g., a call to my buddy at the station to send someone 'round to look after some hooligans might get action but won't become part of the police statistics). People working the 911 call center will then transfer non- emergency calls to the police (or whoever) to free up the line. Might save aggravation on all sides for the South Wales 999 folks to develop a system in which "junk" calls can be quickly shifted out of the emergency call stream to a non- critical "warm line" with repeat offenders getting a fine or other disincentive.

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