Hoax callers are endangering lives

HOAX calls to the fire and rescue service are on the rise in Cambridgeshire, putting people s lives at risk and costing £230,000 a day nationally. In the 11-month period from April 2005 to February 2006, there were 45 hoax calls to Huntingdon fire station

HOAX calls to the fire and rescue service are on the rise in Cambridgeshire, putting people's lives at risk and costing £230,000 a day nationally.

In the 11-month period from April 2005 to February 2006, there were 45 hoax calls to Huntingdon fire station, up from 35 on the previous year.

Sub officer Callum Faint, from white watch at Huntingdon, said: "The real cost has to be measured in lives.

"Hoax calls to our station have resulted in our response times being delayed by 10 to 15 minutes. With hoax calls rising, people's lives are being put at risk."

He added: "If the calls are genuine then we are happy to come out but we get annoyed when we spend time responding to hoax calls. Every hoax call that is made to the fire and rescue service can be traced to a land line or mobile phone and fire officers can contact BT or the mobile phone provider and request that the phone be cut off."

Anyone successfully prosecuted for making a hoax call to the service could be also be fined £5,000 or spend six months in prison.

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Fire officers from Huntingdon and BT representative are now hoping to visit schools in the area to give a presentation to children on why they should not make hoax calls.

Sir Graham Meldrum, head of her Majesty's Fire Service Inspectorate, said: "Young people in particular need to be aware what can happen if the fire brigade is called out under false pretences. The danger to others involved in a real emergency and the financial drain that they impose on a service that is there to save people's lives."

It is estimated that 50,000 hoax fire calls are responded to each year - 135 a day in England and Wales.

An educational DVD called Code 6 - Another Hoax Call, made in partnership with BT and the London Fire Brigade Camden Borough team is available for schools and youth clubs.

INFORMATION: To order the Code 6 - Another Hoax Call DVD visit www.bt.com/hoaxcalls.

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