As the summer holidays begin for thousands of children across the country today, London Fire Brigade is warning that it faces a flood of hoax calls from bored school children.
Last year, the brigade saw a spike in hoax 999 calls in August, when schools were on holiday. This was its busiest month, with staff receiving more than 15 hoax calls each day on average, almost twice as many as during the quietest month, which was December.
The brigade is releasing recordings of hoax calls it has received in order to raise awareness of the techniques it adopts to root out hoax calls and to warn school children of the trouble they face if they get caught wasting firefighters' time.
Susan Hall, Chairman of the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority Community Safety Committee, said: "Hoax calls are a waste of our firefighters' valuable time and of taxpayers' money. If fire crews are sent out to investigate false calls, it means they can't attend real, potentially life threatening, emergencies. As the holidays approach, parents should remind their children of the serious consequences of picking up the phone and wasting our time.
"The brigade takes a number of measures to root out hoax calls and we now attend far fewer than before. However, too many young people still think it's fun to see fire crews rushing to a hoax call. We are working with phone companies and the police to crack down on hoaxers by cutting off and prosecuting those who persist in wasting our time."
Over the last three years, the number of hoax calls attended by London Fire Brigade has fallen from 2,829 to 2,248. The brigade's 999 control officers proactively challenge callers if they believe a call is false.
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