News : Holiday Triple 0 Hoax Calls Have Emergency Operators Seeing Red
Gold Coast, Australia, Jan 5, 2016 -- "My entire family has been shot and I’m hiding from a gunman."
This is an example of the shocking hoaxes facing emergency 000 operators on a daily basis.
In the past financial year, 684,000 Triple 0 calls have been made across the state’s seven communication centres with a large spike in prank calls, mostly from children.
In the last six months of 2015, 550 were prank calls - 38 coming from the Gold Coast.
During the school holidays the calls triple in volume and a Gold Coast communications manager is pleading with parents to educate their kids.
Southport operations manager Kym Meredith said bored children with access to a phone were a recipe for disaster for emergency workers.
"Hoax calls are something we have to deal with on a regular basis but during school holidays it can get out of hand," she said.
"Often our operators can tell when something is not quite right but recently we had one fake call that was extremely convincing.
"A child called and told the operator a gunman had shot the entire family and they were now hiding from him.
"It was a realistic call — the operator truly believed this was unfolding — it can be quite disturbing."
In the past 12 months local operators have received calls from young-sounding children reporting shootings, stabbings and accidents.
In one, a young-sounding person told an operator his friend has fallen from a tree and broken an arm.
When questioned the story changed several times and when the operator told the child there were severe penalties for calling 000 incorrectly, the caller hung up.
Ms Meredith said staff received counselling and support but hoax calls were more frustrating than anything.
"For us, it is extremely frustrating," she said.
"These professionals are trying to deliver lifesaving advice to help the sick and injured.
"Hoax calls threaten the lives of people and clog up services when they are needed elsewhere.
"Every call we receive must be responded to whether it is suspected to be fake or not."
The penalties for hoax calls to 000 are hefty, including a maximum jail term of three years and a maximum fine of $25,000.
Ms Meredith said young people behind most of the offending calls did not realise the severity of their actions.
"Our operators can often tell a caller is a young child from their voice, and background noise can indicate they are giggling with friends or in a house when they claim to be outside," he said.
"We get calls claiming people have been shot, stabbed, run over or assaulted and when we arrive we find there is no incident."
Ms Meredith said she did not want to scare children off dialling 000 but only for the right reasons.
Queensland Police Superintendent Glenn Horton said the service took a dim view of fake or unnecessary calls.
"The incorrect use of 000 can be very frustrating, especially when people report things that are not emergencies or not the responsibility of police," he said.
Gold Coasters wishing to report incidents that are not emergencies are urged to think about using a local doctor for illness, Policelink for non-serious matters on 131 444 or Crime Stoppers for unsolved crime information on 1800 333 000.
Posted by Veronica Silva Cusi, news correspondent
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Published: Thursday, January 7, 2016