News : Hoax Calls and Perverts Reign Supreme at 108
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Pune, Oct 10, 2014 -- The Maharashtra Emergency Services (MEMS) helpline, 108, was launched for helping people in their 'golden hour' (an initial 60-minute window when the chances of recovery from an emergency are the maximum). However, the officers who man this helpline developed by the government on public-private-partnership model along with BVG India Ltd never thought that most calls would be for entirely different reasons.
Out of 18,78,474 calls received all over Maharashtra in nearly a year, a startling 17,76,900 were enquiry, prank and abusive calls, which sometimes turned obscene if attended to by a female officer.
"Our emergency response officers (ERO) have to deal with all kinds of calls. There are some who call up and say nothing. Some give wrong information regarding an emergency and when our ambulance reaches the venue, we see no patient," said Dr Swapnil Choughule, administrative officer, MEMS.
The ambulances are posted at certain locations in the city. "We call it segmentation. If an ambulance is caught up in an emergency, the next nearest ambulance is sent to the spot. If people make such hoax calls, these ambulances remain busy unnecessarily and the response time is slower. We are now going to keep a record of such callers and take up the issue with the police," he added.
Surprisingly, MEMS is not the only helpline at the receiving end of such calls. Suicide helplines, which generally have female counsellors, also face similar issues. "Five to 10 per cent of our callers are perverts. They begin as if they genuinely have some sexual issues but within minutes in the call, we realise that they are just making it up and are discussing their fantasies. Moreover, they also call up repeatedly. Once such calls start repeating, they are transferred to me. When they hear a male voice, they disconnect the call and do not call back," said Paras Sharama, a co-ordinator for a telephone-based counselling helpline named iCall psycho social helpline based in Mumbai.
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A similar situation is faced by Connecting..., yet another NGO that runs a suicide helpline. "We get at least two such calls per day. The numbers are higher during a lull. Many a time it leads to our volunteers getting disturbed. To deal with such situations, we hold sessions on how to handle such calls," said Jyotsna Bahirat, project co-ordinator in Connecting... .
Fire services also face their own set of unrelated calls. "We get calls from people asking us to recharge their phones or asking us about net packs frequently. There are call centre numbers of some network providers that are similar to ours. It may make us miss real emergency calls," said Nilesh Mahajan, a fireman who mans the 101 helpline.
Posted by Veronica Silva Cusi, news correspondent
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Maharashtra Emergency Medical Services (MEMS) project under National Health Mission provides pre-hospital health services to patients through life support ambulances to nearby hospitals for further treatment.
Published: Monday, October 13, 2014
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