Home>Fire>Fire and Rescue >Challenging nuisance 999 calls saves London Fire Brigade £800k

Challenging nuisance 999 calls saves London Fire Brigade £800k

24 March 2020

Control Operators challenged more than 2,000 time-wasting 999 callers last year – saving London Fire Brigade almost £800k*.

As new figures reveal hoax calls attended by fire engines cost the Brigade £420,000 in 2019, nuisance 999 callers are being warned not to waste Control Officers’ time. 

Last year, the Brigade received 1,163 calls that led to firefighters being sent to an incident which was recorded as “false alarm – malicious”** , meaning someone has deliberately called in a bogus incident.

Another 2,346 calls were taken and challenged by control staff and didn’t result in fire engines being dispatched.

Last year, the notional cost for the incidents attended by firefighters which were recorded as “false alarm – malicious” was £424,644.

The Brigade’s Assistant Commissioner for Control and Mobilising, Jonathan Smith, said: “Nuisance calls to the fire brigade or any emergency service are simply not acceptable.

“They waste valuable time and money and all the time our resources are tied up dealing with incidents which turn out to be a hoax, people who are in a genuine emergency could be prevented from receiving our help when they most need it.

“Our Control Officers will challenge callers if they believe the information being given sounds suspicious and anyone thinking of carrying out this immature behaviour should be reminded that it is a criminal offence to misuse 999 or make hoax calls.”

While the number of incidents fire engines attended from malicious calls has fallen – in 2018 it was 1,212 and in 2017 it was 1,323 – Control Officers challenged more calls in 2019 than the previous two years.

Nuisance calls from mobile phones rose by almost 45 per cent*** in 2019, rising from around 1,600 calls in 2018 to more than 2,300 in 2019.

Assistant Commissioner Smith added: “The dedication of our Control Officers means we have seen a fall in the number of hoax incidents our firefighters are attending and this is a credit to their hard work and training to identify suspicious callers.

“The fact they identified more than 2,000 calls which were suspicious last year means they have not sent fire engines out unnecessarily and firefighters’ time was better spent attending genuine incidents, carrying out Home Fire Safety Visits or doing important safety work in the community.”

Last month, a woman was jailed for repeatedly making nuisance 999 calls to the Metropolitan Police Service.

She was sentenced to 10 weeks in prison for making 1,278 calls to the force.

*The notional cost of a fire appliance attending a call is £339 per hour (2019/20). The notional cost saved from not attending 2,346 calls is £795,294.

**“False alarm – malicious” is an alternative code to “false alarm – good intent” where the caller genuinely believed there to be a fire.

*** Not attended – call challenged

2017 - 1,629 
2018 - 1,621 
2019 - 2,346

Last year, London Fire Brigade’s Control Room took a total of 173,244 calls and firefighters attended 105,646 incidents.