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9,000 hoax calls to fire service in five years

Fire brigade services have responded to a staggering 9,000 hoax calls in just five years.

Urban areas have been particularly affected by the problem which could, ultimately, cost lives.

Fine Gael TD John O'Mahony said that "at a conservative estimate, the cost of these stunts by pranksters fell just short of €10m over five years."

He said that figures released to him indicated that between 2007 and 2011, the number of false alarm calls made to the emergency fire services across the country reached 32,774.

"These calls are broken down by malicious and good intent, with the number of malicious intent calls totalling 9,149 over that period.

"While the Department of the Environment does not calculate the cost of these calls, Mayo County Council has outlined to me that it charges €1,000 per call-out and that many other councils charge up to €1,500."

He said that the number of malicious intent calls has been increasing over the years.

"In the larger urban areas, such as Dublin, where 7,840 false alarm calls were registered, nearly one in every two, or 3,822 calls, were malicious in nature.

"This not only has a devastating impact on the financial resources of the local authorities . . . but means that when a genuine call comes in there may be a delay in getting an emergency response team to where it is really needed," he said.

Deputy O'Mahony said that he wants penalties to be put in place for repeat offenders of this "damaging and dangerous practice" to act as a deterrent.

EPIDEMIC

He added that most councils have retained fire fighters who work part-time and when a call comes in these men and women are called to the fire station. Even if the call is identified as a hoax, they are paid for responding to the call.

Separate figures last week showed the number of hoax calls received by the ambulance service in each HSE region last year exceeded 4,000.

Deputy O'Mahony said it had gone to "epidemic" proportions and said that the growth in the number of hoax calls over recent years was worrying.

Meanwhile, there were 328 hoax calls to the Irish coast guard service last year.

fdillon@herald.ie


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