Vital service-seekers find the hotline busy most of the time, depriving them of timely and proper support
The national emergency helpline 999 has been jammed with fake calls, wasting valuable time and resources.
At least eight calls in every ten made to the emergency helpline 999 are fake.
Due to the lack of awareness regarding emergency or on spot services, people make fake calls, police said.
The calls made to national emergency helpline 999 are categorized into three sections: blank calls, crank or prank calls and other calls.
The data compiled from December 12, 2017, to January 19 this year shows that the authorities have received 8,320,920 calls.
Among them, they were unable to process 82% of the calls – a total of 6,798,823 calls including the most frequent category’s 4,465,548 blank calls, followed by 1,032,225 crank or prank calls and 1,301,050 other calls.
The matter is upsetting to police, as vital service-seekers find the hotline busy most of the time, which deprives them of timely and proper support, said operators.
Hence, they have requested people not to keep the hotline engaged by dialing 999, which is a free of cost service available across Bangladesh. They asked them to think about people who are genuinely in emergencies who may be put at risk if unable to reach the 999 service.
Under the initiative of the ICT Division, the national emergency helpline was first run on a trial basis, then officially inaugurated on December 12, 2017.
Since then, the hotline has been serving those looking for help from the authorities concerned –particularly police, fire service and ambulances.
Hotline operators have successfully connected people with concerned authorities for different problems including: rape, domestic violence or torture, mugging, accidents, fire incidents, illness, requiring an ambulance, family problems, missing children, unauthorized tree cutting, getting trapped in an elevator and sound pollution.
What are fake calls?
When people make a call but do not talk, it is called a blank call.
Sometimes people make calls to hear the voices of female operators, and sometimes they try to either flirt or share their stories of sorrow with them, which is called a crank call.
Sometimes even children make phone calls and sing rhymes or poems, which is called a prank call.
Police services top CFS calls
Call for Service (CFS) is the type of call that is actually under the mandate of the helpline for providing service.
During the same time period, the helpline responded to 1,522,097 phone calls, or 18% of the total calls, which includes different categories of calls. Among them, 1,280,704 were basically inquiry calls and 58,905 were CFS calls.
Among the CFS calls, 75% calls were for police support, 20% were for fire service services and 5% were for ambulance services.
Police: Do not deprive genuine service seekers from help
Officials operating the service have urged people to help them ensure prompt service for genuine service seekers by not making unnecessary calls.
Mirajur Rahman Patwary, Assistant Superintendent of Police at National Emergency Service 999 said: “Service seekers find the phone line busy because of fake calls, which create difficulties for operators trying to provide help to emergency seekers.”
He said they have now introduced the mobile data terminal (MDT) in a single device to further enhance the system.
“When we receive a call and apply it to the device, it shows the location of the local police station in the area that then claim the issue and can take action,” he said.
The officials can also update their actions regarding the issues they are attending. It is easy to monitor the action and get the latest updates through the service, he added.
The device has already been installed at 92 different police stations and will gradually be installed across Bangladesh, the official said.
Although the helpline initially was able to respond to 30 calls at a time, it can now attend 100 calls at a time.
Considering the higher demand, the authority is planning to raise the number of officials under this division to 500-600 from the existing 100 in each shift within the next 2-3 years.