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False emergency calls continue to come in to police and fire departments

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On any given day, thousands of phone calls are received at emergency dispatcher stations across the nation. While most are cases requiring emergency assistance, in recent years the number of incoming calls that are downright ridiculous has been increasing.

“He’s suddenly sick, I don’t know what to do! Please come rightaway!” a woman screams over the phone. An ambulance is sent from a Numazu city fire station, to be met by a woman with a small dog in her arms. “Not again, is the thought that crossed my mind. The rule is to respond to any medical emergency call, but requests like these happen on a daily basis," comments one fire station staff member.

According to police statistics, up to 12% of all emergency calls received between January and November 2009 were of such a nature, and worse still, have increased compared to the previous year. Shukan Post interviewed several police and fire departments for examples of phone calls that clearly did not fall under the category of emergency situations.

“It’s late and I can’t find a taxi. Take me home.” This seems to be the most common type of call throughout Japan. The Saitama Police Department gives a flat "no" to such demands.

“There’s no toilet paper at this park. I need some paper right away.” When the dispatcher asks for the location, the male caller shouts back, “Forget it, I’ll call a friend!”

“I have something to say to Noriko Sakai. Forward this call to her now.” The policeman who happened to take the call patiently explains that it’s simply not possible.

“I can’t urinate.” After getting a description of the symptom, the dispatcher instructs the caller to go to the nearest hospital.

There is a host of other calls asking for the location of a cheap pub or advice on money owed. But these, at least, are cases that can be handled over the telephone. The real nuisance is the call that requires the respective station to dispatch personnel.

“A bee came flying into the house.”

“There is a snake in the garden.”

Article 2 of the Police Act states that the police must protect the life, physical body and assets of citizens. As such, they are required to respond to calls of help since it is conceivable that bees and snakes may endanger individuals.

Another common call made throughout Japan: “There’s a cockroach!” It’s hard to imagine a cockroach would inflict any injury, yet the police have no choice but to go to the scene and ensure that no one is harmed, and occasionally would lend a hand in disposing of the insect.

Other examples include calls about a missing husband who was supposed to be in bed (the man was found sleeping in another room), complaints about sunburns or pain in the eye from contact lenses, and a caller who said s/he felt desolate and wanted to die. In all of these cases, policemen or ambulances were immediately dispatched.

One police superintendent laments, “The number of police patrol cars and ambulances is limited. Serious crimes and life threatening cases have occurred while the police and rescue teams are sent out to get rid of snakes and attend to sprained fingers. Are these callers aware that their requests are being met at the expense of others in need of real help?”

It is easy to say that the problem involves the lack of common sense and conscience. But clearly there is a growing awareness of "citizen’s rights" – which simply assumes public services exist for their benefit.

© Japan Today

©2021 GPlusMedia Inc.

11 Comments
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In my neighborhood it's not uncommon for elderly people to use the ambulance service like a taxi.

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call them 'drunkards' or 'inebriate' then link it to psycological illness and forget - Govt may not be able to offer free treatment to them.

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I'm surprised there isn't a separate division to handle the lesser emergency calls -- a community "helper" division or something similar... perhaps there should be?

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An elderly woman with Alzheimer's who lives across the street from me often goes wandering at night 'looking for her mother' and usually ends up sitting down in the middle of the street for hours until some passerby calls the cops to come and help her. She is then escorted back to her house by patrol car, ambulance, and fire truck. This has happened countless times and causes quite a commotion in the neighborhood what with all the flashing lights in the early morning. What a huge waste of money and resources, you'd think they would have thought of a better way to deal with this after so many false alarms.

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Where I come from we do not have this kind of problem. The law is simple there. If you misuse the emergency system you conduct a criminal act and will be fined as you endanger lives of those who really need help. In severe cases imprisoned.

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I think if they were to charge for ambulance service as they do in Australia, there wouldn,t be so many unnecessary calls.....

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I'm surprised there isn't a separate division to handle the lesser emergency calls -- a community "helper" division or something similar... perhaps there should be?

People would still call the emergency number for non emergency usage. In the USA (check youtube) there's this one famous case where the person called for Thanksgiving turkey help.

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I understand people wanting to "get their money's worth" from their tax money, but some of the calls are just ridiculous. Japan should change the law to penalize anyone who does not call with an actual emergency.

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Repeated calls of a non-emergency nature should result in usage fees on the offender. If a unit is dispatched to the home for a non-emergency cause, the caller should be charged a higher fee. You run the risk fo getting into a situation where a real emergency cannot be gotten to in time because the unit(s) were responding to a phantom emergency.

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A lot of this stems from a lack of understanding of what counts as an emergency. As the article states, there's a growing awareness of citizens' rights, but there's likewise a growing disregard of citizen RESPONSIBILITIES. It's an individual's responsibility to understand that a bug, a snake, or a sprained ankle do not require a first responder's attention. Call an exterminator, an animal control officer, or a friend or family member. Respect for the individual is not the same as narcisissm.

A lot of this could be helped by educating people about what OTHER numbers they can call for lesser problems that don't constitute an imminent threat to life and property. Are your neighbors throwing a raucous party and it's two in the morning? Call the police to register a complaint. Are your neighbors in their front yard and one of them's waving a knife around, threatening to kill the other? Call the emergency number. The former is a nuisance but not an emergency. The latter is a clear threat to someone's health and safety. A lot of people dial the emergency line because it's easy to remember and they know someone is going to pick-up the phone. That kind of thinking has to stop.

It would be nice if it was de rigeur that when someone moves into a new home or apartment, he or she is provided with a flyer or a laminated sheet that lists numbers and addresses for police, fire, animal control, poison control, government offices, taxi companies, nearby hospitals and bus or subway terminals. There will still be abuse of the emergency number because there are stupid people born every minute, but that abuse could be reduced by just reminding people about the other options available to them.

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Aside from the usual carrot and stick approaches, why not do something creative to solve this problem? Most of these retards who are calling the emergency numbers probably watch the tarento shows religiously (it just fits, doesn't it?)

So why not, as a public service, get the shows to do segments ridiculing the callers? I've heard that police are considering taping all emergency calls anyways, so it's just an extra step to forward copies to the TV production companies for more mindless fodder. I have seen shows which show Japanese motorists being maimed and killed in videos taken by traffic cameras, so unneccessary emergency calls should definitely be OK for publication too.

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