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