Demands on 999 hitting New Year's Eve levels every day

24 July 2021, 00:01

Emergency call operators are having to deal with a high number of calls, many of which do not warrant an emergency response
Emergency call operators are having to deal with a high number of calls, many of which do not warrant an emergency response. Picture: Alamy

By Daisy Stephens

The National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) is urging people to only call 999 in a genuine emergency, after demand for the service surged in recent months.

There have been more than 100,000 calls to the emergency line every day for over a month, placing significant pressure on control rooms.

“We are consistently seeing demand on 999 as high as it would be on New Year's Eve and so we’re appealing for people to use the service responsibly,” said NPCC lead for Contact Management, Assistant Chief Constable Alan Todd.

“999 should only be called in a genuine emergency when you need immediate assistance and not simply because you cannot get through on non-emergency numbers.

“If you misuse the service you risk those in genuine need of urgent help waiting longer to get through.”

The average number of calls connected to police this month was 34,000 a day, compared to 29,500 in the same period last year – and only around a quarter of these calls will be judged to require an immediate emergency response from police.

Recent unnecessary calls to police on 999 include from a man who was being followed home by a cat, a man asking to speak to Sting, the lead singer of The Police, about a broken vinyl, and a woman asking when her next train would be.

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Mr Todd said “demands and pressures” on policing had returned to what they were before Covid and were likely to increase with the warm weather and the return of sporting events.

He asked people to get in touch with police either online at police.uk or by calling 101.

However, he added: “Anyone with a genuine need for emergency assistance, where life or property is in immediate danger should always call 999.”

High demand for policing has a knock-on effect on other emergency services.,

“Calls for assistance to fire and rescue services are currently in line with what we would expect and in the event of an incident we will respond and provide the help you need,” said Darryl Keen, the National Fire Chiefs Council’s Lead for Operational Communications.

“However, demand placed on our other blue light colleagues impacts on the fire service’s ability to quickly reach them when a coordinated, multi agency response is needed.

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“We ask that people ensure they use the 999 service appropriately, ensuring it is only for emergency situations and where there is risk to life so all emergency services can continue to provide you with the fast response you need.”

Calls to the 999 service are answered first by BT operators and then passed to the emergency service the caller requests.

The NPCC has warned that abuse of the service can result in criminal action.