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Many dialling 111 just to check time

NICOLE MATHEWSON
Last updated 05:00 15/10/2012
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RED ALERT: Is this truly an emergency or should I be looking at a clock, ringing a taxi company or ordering pizza instead?

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A woman wondered what to do with her meat in the freezer when the power went off. Another wanted to know where she could send an earthquake donation. Scores of others simply asked for the time.

These queries were among the more than a million false calls made to emergency services each year - including hang-ups and accidental calls.

Telecom facilitated nearly 2.5 million 111 calls during 2011, with almost half (48 per cent) deemed genuine emergencies. Of those, about 60 per cent asked for police assistance, 30 per cent ambulance and 10 per cent the Fire Service. But the other 52 per cent were false calls.

Telecom spokeswoman Jo Jalfon said false calls were defined as those where customers simply hung up, dialled 111 accidentally with only background noise heard, calls with no speaking or children playing on phones.

"Some people dial 111 to ask us simple questions such as what time is it, what day it is, can they book a taxi and other general non-emergency questions."

"False or non-genuine 111 calls take up our operators' time which should be used to assist those with a genuine emergency," Jalfon said.

Emergency services and Telecom encouraged the public to call 111 during emergencies but to have other support phone numbers handy if their need was not urgent.

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- The Press

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