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News : 63% of Calls Made to 108 Have No Medical Purpose
Chennai, India, June 2, 2016 -- At the 108 call centre in the city, there is seldom an executive on duty who is not attending a distress call. More than 27,000 phone calls flood the 108 line every day but all callers don't report an emergency. Data from the EMRI performance report (April '15 to March '16) shows that almost 63% of these calls are 'ineffective'. Ineffective calls include missed calls, calls with general inquiries, silent calls, nuisance calls and calls that disconnect midway.
For 108 call centre executives, who are trained to treat each call as an SOS, the problem is not the volume of calls but the bulk of abusive, prank and even hoax calls that come in a day. "We receive 20 hoax calls per day. This is when the caller sounds very convincing about an emergency and provides all the details. Once our ambulance reaches the spot, we realise that the call was a hoax," said in-charge of emergency response centre K Bharathidasan. "Such calls increase during the weekends when the demand for ambulances also goes up," he said.
"Calls that cannot be connected due unavoidable circumstances are understandable and we have designed the system to accommodate them without affecting our performance," Prabhudoss said. GVK-EMRI runs the 108 service that's sponsored by the state government.
Apart from hoax calls, 108 receives about 10,000 abusive and prank calls a month. "Summer is the worst period as we get several calls from children who are at home," said regional manager (marketing), GVK- Emergency Management and Research Institute, B Prabhudoss. "These calls, though not very significant, clog up the bandwidth. It hampers our process and delays the response to a real emergency," he said.
"It is heartening to note that even children are aware of the service, but this becomes a problem when such calls are repetitive," said Jansimary*, an emergency response officer.
Alcoholics and those under the influence of drugs are big-time abusers of the emergency helpline. With majority of 108 staff who handle the calls being women, several men dial the helpline just for a chat. When a male staff answers the call, they ask it to be transferred to a female executive or simply hang up. Officials say they cannot be abusive towards such callers. "If they call more than 10 times, we block their number for two to three days. We have to unblock them after that because they might be in a real emergency too," said Prabhudoss.
"Even drunk people can get hurt. There is no way to know whether they are in real trouble or not until the ambulance reaches the spot," said Jansimary.
Between April 2015 and March 2016, 108 received 67.79 lakh calls of which 41.37 lakh were classified as ineffective (62.74%). Only 20.6% were classified as emergency calls. Another 16.66% were non-emergency. "On a good day, I receive around 400 calls. Of these, 300 can be ineffective," said Jansimary.
Posted by Veronica Silva Cusi, news correspondent
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Published: Friday, June 3, 2016