South tops list of hoax fire callers

By Scott Jamison

South Belfast has seen over 700 hoax calls to the fire service in the past five years, the highest number in any area of Northern Ireland.

The information, which came to light in a Freedom of Information request by this paper, show that despite there being only two local stations, a combined total of 743 malicious calls were made to them since 2006.

All of the calls saw crews from the local stations fully mobilised, meaning local people in genuine danger at the time were left in greatest risk.

Central station, located on Ormeau Avenue, received 359 hoax calls over the five years, while Cadogan station on the Lisburn Road got 384 in the same period.

Foyle saw the second highest amount of hoax calls, having 505, while North Belfast was third with 472 and West Belfast fourth with 458.

On average, South Belfast saw a total of 3,630 mobilised calls each year stretching back to 2006.

Once again it was the constituency with the highest figures in Northern Ireland.

Alan Walmsley, group commander for the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service said every hoax call was “a huge waste” of the organisation’s resources.

“I would appeal for people in South Belfast or anywhere not to make hoax calls to us. Mobilising fire crews and fire appliances to what turns out to be a hoax call is obviously a waste of our resources.

“Hoax calls also put additional pressure on our regional control centre personnel who answer 999 calls and mobilise the fire appliances. We continue to appeal to the public and particularly to children and young people not to make deliberate hoax calls as you are not only wasting our time but you may be putting your own family or friends in danger.

“If the closest fire appliance is out responding to a hoax call, another fire appliance from further afield will have to respond in the event of a real emergency.”

Mr Walmsley said making hoax calls was a criminal offence and police would be brought in to deal with perpetrators.

“Our regional control centre personnel who handle all the emergency 999 calls are extremely well trained and in many cases are able to quickly determine hoax calls.

“By using call management techniques, our regional control centre personnel are able to keep the mobilisations to these hoax calls down.

“The public should always remember calls made from landlines and mobile phones are easily traceable and the person who owns the phone can be held responsible. We will report hoax callers to the police.”

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