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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@ F Cage

I believe the opening statement in question here is the one the police operators give you when you actually get put through, not the initial 999 operators' greeting. That is still to ask the nature of the emergency and which service the caller requires. After which they will be transferred to the police operator, who will give them this new greeting.

Also, is your first name Faraday?

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Anonymous Coward

999 response

I think there should be an easy to remember non-emergency number. Although, that would require a certain judgement about whether the situation was an emergency or not.

Case in point:

I was driving along the A38 from Cornwall. I was behind a car for sometime, and after a while, it became apparent that the car was travelling forwards, but was actually pointing towards the right hand side of the road. It took a while to be sure I wasn't imagining this, but it was obvious the driver kept having to correct the trajectory to keep the car going forwards.

Now this wasn't an emergency as such, no-one was dying no-one was trapped or on fire - but, how long before the situation changed into something serious ? *

So, after a deep breath, I called 999 on the cab phone and asked for the police. I explained the situation and after giving as much detail as possible, they kept me on the line while I followed this car for about 10 or 15 miles, me giving them updates on where I was. Eventually, I lost sight of the car, as it speeded up to over 60mph on a dual carriageway, even though it was obviously defective. But the operator said it was ok as there was a car behind it now. Sure enough, I came over a hill and found the car had been pulled over and an irate looking driver was standing at the side of the road waving his hands about. Job done. I comforted myself with the thought that the police had probably waited until they were sure that the car was displaying the symptoms I had described before pulling it in.

Anyway, about 20 minutes later, the phone rang, and it was the police operator. Oh shit, I thought, I'm going to get done for wasting police time or something. But no, he was just letting me know the outcome ! Apparently, the car was damaged in some way, and the driver was a "trader" ** who was trying to get the vehicle back to somewhere he could get it fixed. I was thanked for my call, and went about my business.

Overall, I would classify the whole experience as bizarre.

So the police do take action if they can, and are even quite polite about it.

* I have been driving a car that showed no bad symptoms, which, when I went around a left hand bend, suddenly lost steering because the right hand steering joint broke. I immediately hit the brakes, but because the RH front wheel was no longer attached to the steering, it flew back against the wheel arch and locked, causing the car to spin in a clockwise direction, right across the path of oncoming traffic. So bearing this in mind, I felt that the situation could easily become an emergency, and why wait until someone was dead or injured just to prove my point.

** Surely a trader would have more sense than to drive a car that could let go at any moment, at speeds of over 60mph on public roads. That's why they have recovery trucks.

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@Steve Wehrle

Non-PC outsourcing? How about Non-PC IT PC outsourcing? That way all the help desk operators could let of steam in their break times with willing targets and no repercussions. It would decrease helpdesk stress levels more effectively than any stress releaving toy.

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@999 what jokers

Couldn't agree more.

I was the victim of a violent (left me nearly unconcious) asault by a mugger. I dialled 999, as did a householder who eventually came out to help me.

The police phoned up (not turned up!!!) 24 hours (a whole bloody day!) later and asked me if I wanted to pursue the case.

When I told them "No, I wanted you to turn up at the time and catch the f*cker" they were surprised. If they're going to have an emergency number, they should treat every call as an emergency.

Before anybody suggests that they were too busy answering frivolous calls, I did ask them if they'd been busy the day before. The reply?

"Er, no. Why?"

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999, Bah !

Up here in Newcastle, the 101 service is being discontinued for lack of use.

So that's back to 999 for us.

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@ Stratman

There are many different species of hamsters throughout the world and most hamsters inhabit semi-desert areas where they live in burrows.

Not a lot of rain in hamsterland - just because it's an animal doesn't mean it can survive outside in the UK.

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If they don't answer...........

A direct personal experience - 27 minutes waiting for the super efficient Wiltshire Constabulary call centre to answer the phone - is it any wonder that folk call 999 out of frustration?

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well...

> 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?

No, but they do live in the desert...

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@ The Other Steve

"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 !"

Yeah, I think I might use their advice and get the support staff to answer the phone with "Hello IT Support, please state the nature of your emergency"

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Alien

@Probe

Hamsters able to live in UK?

No problem. UK climate is quite mild compared to most places in central Europe.

OK, some species might like it drier, but hamsters are local here - central Transylvania [its a real region, look it up!] - and I've seen one a lot bigger than anything in a UK petshop. Lots of rain, good thick clay soil, and the snow that came before Christmas took about 3 weeks to melt. Not saying they're stupid enough to be above ground much, but the climate isn't much of a problem in itself.

(alien, because no vampires near here)

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Joke

Lies, Damn Lies and Statistics.....

In other news a mother-in-law was murdered on the 19th day of her stay with her daughter......

The man charged with her killing was recently quoted as saying "Well, I did try to call the police. I knew the situation had already got out of control but they just told me I was making a prank call"

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Linux

Hamsters

Where ever they live I doubt that in their natural habitat, during a rainstorm, they would be sitting in a cage (I assume in a cage; otherwise the little devil would vanish) with a deep plastic tray that will eventually fill up.

Unless with the wellies they rigged it up with a snorkel.

Granted, they could climb up the bars of the cage and cling on until the rain stops but this is in Wales, and it rains a lot there. Well, it was the last time I went.

Depressed penguin icon, 'cos there isn't a depressed hamster icon.

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110 System

110? The idea is good, but the vast majority if people haven't heard of it. What should have been done is a nationwide implimentation, followed by a major public information project. Adverts on TV, national news, appearing in EastEnders, punchy slogan etc etc so it would be as familiar to everyone as "118 118". It should have gone live on a particular date nationwide, and it should have been compulsorary for ALL police forces to involve themselves in it and answer the local calls. Launch it on the 1st of October (1/10) with nationwide coverage on news, and a catchy add campaign.

Instead they just implimented the technology so nobody could say they hadn't made good on the promise, but never encouraged people to use it by actually telling them about it or anything. So it failed as cheaply and quietly as possible.

Shame, really. Seems typical of large government communications projects, though!

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JC

perfect

Big freakin' deal, if there isn't even enough pork in the budget to hire a couple operators to handle calls can't we just overclock those we have so they're 10% more efficient?

For all we know, after that gal's boyfriend put the hamster out in the rain and she saw no other recourse, she flipped out (already there?) and took a butcher knife to him. The thing is, THEY don't know what the situation is from only a few seconds on the phone. Go ahead and send the police out, because while on the way there they are also surveying the path and deterring crime by their presence instead of only sitting in one place doing nothing but waiting for a call (that just came in).

It'd be different if all our law enforcement officers were terribly overworked, but even if they were, taking a drive out to see about a wet hamster might be a nice break and a good laugh.

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Anonymous Coward

999 Emergency which service?

As a former BT operator, I've heard some of these calls myself.

Especially remember an American who using a BT payphone said the screen said "999 CALLS ONLY" so he called 999. Took a few minutes for him to understand 999 is the same as 911, and expected me to find the location of a near by working payphone (!!)

Oh! and the lovely old man who called 999 to complain about the police helicopter above his house, he insisted to be connected to the police, I really enjoyed listening to the arse kicking he got :-P

But these days how difficult is to lookup the number for your local police, NHS Direct (for that lovely 999 call asking where the nearest open chemist was!) and store them in your mobile or landline phone book?

But you have to be open-minded, I wasn't sure a little kid making a call was messing about until I asked him where his mum was - she was 'asleep' and pretty clear she was in trouble.

But why not have a system were you get, press 1 for NHS Direct, press 2 for your local police, press 3 for 'you've missed the train' can you get a police car to stop the train so you can get on it, press 4 for 'pissed army bloke who calls 999 to be patched through to the millitary emergency system' and who doesn't seem to know the normal number for his army base or the military police, press 5 for the speaking clock, press 6 for lost the remote control, press 7 for husband has forgotten my birthday/anniversary oooooh! and press 8 for why is there a police car at my next door neighbour - what's the gossipp?!?!?

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Anonymous Coward

110 System

I don't think 110 is a good idea, far too close to 112 (the same as 999)

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Traige

Couple of things.

1] When a woman rings the police about their boyfriend, whether it be hamster related or otherwise, I think it is reasonable to expect the police to take it seriously (At least at first). There may be more than just the current reported incident to take into account. An indivdual in a state of distress may be incapable of properly expressing themselves. IT would be dificult for a good Emergency services operator to make this judgement without further questioning of the caller. I do hope this is what happened.

2] The idea of having a recorded messge is ALMOST right, if you ask me. WHat wrong with having some kind of triage scenario? If the caller turns out to be a non-emergency, just stick them on hold to the non-emergency line, and get on to the next call.

Requiring the individual to make decisions about what is and what isn't an emergency, and to remember 2 or 3 different numbers in order to ensure they make the right call, is ALWAYS going to lead to some problems. The best thing the emergency service can do in these cases is ensure that the calls get redirected quickly and efficiently with the minimum of fuss.

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@ Tawakalna

It the useless lazy t*ssers that make up a significant section of the public who can't be arsed to use a phone book that are the reason you don't always get the response you think you're entitled to. That and the fact that the rest of the population are pissed as farts binge drinking and kicking the crap out of each other 24/7.

When the UK does not have a population comprised largely of complete halfwits ("dowotwelikies") or over-educated herberts who use their intelligence to either justify the indefensible (usually by lying) or finding ever more elaborate ways to enriching themselves courtesy of the halfwits (National Lottery, MP's expenses, Big Brother etc), the police can concentrate on real crime, like on the Bill!

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Dual-number system works in Australia

Here in South Australia, we have a dual-number system backed up with a massive public information campaign ("Think first, then dial" etc). Our emergency number (000) is for life-threatening emergencies, for all other calls for police attendance you dial 11 4444. My experience with this system is that if you dial 000 and report an emergency (e.g. a car accident) the police are on the scene usually in less than 5 minutes. The 11 4444 number, on the other hand, generally brings a cop on the scene around 45 minutes to an hour later. It seems to have worked, since the police last year reported a significant reduction in frivolous 000 calls. The important thing with a dual-number system is that the alternative number needs to be widely publicised with a clear and simple system for the public to decide which number to call - in our case, its "if a life is in danger ring 000, otherwise ring 11 4444". In tandem with such a campaign, the dual number system does work.

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Stop

Exploding hampsters...

...are the next big terror threat. Do not mock.

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Wrong Numbers

There is a Hamster here that loves the rain .. (bottom left) http://www.yaaarrr.com/

Anyway to the point, wrong numbers are too good to waste, I used to work in a Network Operations Center, that had a very similar number to a popular airline that I will not mention, for fear of being sued by a bearded, jumper sporting balloonist.

Of a night, I would often receive calls from people wishing to book flights, and more often than not, an explanation that they had dialed the wrong number was insufficient.

I found the best way to deal with these people was to go along with it, booking their flights for them over the internet, using the details they supplied.

Of course, to relieve my tedium I would often book the flight with an alternative airline, ensure they were seated separately from their partner, and specify Kosher Gluten Free meals.

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@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 :-)"

Surely the winners of a Darwin are no longer around to enjoy breathing, never mind bragging rights!

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2 solutions off the top of my head - I should be a politician

So fine each pathetic timewaster 500-1000 each call & put this money back into having proper police on the streets or actually doing something about the crime in the UK.

Alternatively, since each and every one of them is preventing resources from saving lives, charge each with attempted murder/manslaughter and put them into a selfish-git jail.

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I for one

Welcome our Waterproof Hamstine Overlords

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Anonymous Coward

Fine them but not on their phone bill

Any idiot who dials 999 because he is too lazy, stupid, proud, ignorant or thick to not call his local police station or is unable to go look up the number in either Yellow Pages, the internet, 118 118 or the other multitude of services, for a non-emergency should be fined £100 at least.

Just don't put it on the phone bill. They are complicated enough and the sort of people who do it either won't pay or call phone company call centres for weeks on end.

On the spot fine dropped in a by a traffic warden will do the trick. They are used to dealing with complete tits already.

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Go

We already have...

101 here in Cardiff and it has been very useful in filtering out the crap calls to 999. Very useful for reporting street gangs, prostitutes, petty vandalism etc. Unfortunately, the Westminster Govt. is now stopping the funding and the WAG (Wales Assembly Govt.) don't have a replacement funding stream yet.

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Vital seconds?

Sorry, while I appreciate there are dick'eads calling 999 because their pizza was delivered late and is now cold, I don't buy the claim "vital seconds" may be lost answering such calls...

This sort of implies all lines could be busy, and you'll get an engaged tone calling 999. While I don't frequent calling 999 myself, I've never *ever* heard of anyone not getting through on a 999 call cuz some operator has put their line on "do not disturb" while they set about cutting their toe nails.

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And the bread were 'ovis too!

When I was a child my parents were very clear that you got into trouble for dialling 999 unless it was an emergency. Was that ever the case?

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