MLA Poots hits out at hoax callers

HEALTH and Public Safety Minister, and local MLA, Edwin Poots has given details of the cost of hoax calls to the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Services (NIFRS) and the Northern Ireland Ambulance Service (NIAS).

The Minister said the sum, estimated to be as much as £3.16 million each year, was a massive drain on the resources of the emergency services.

Mr Poots said: “Hoax calls to our emergency services are totally abhorrent. The staggering £3million cost each year, which equates to almost £9,000 a day, has been completely wasted. This is money that could have been spent elsewhere across the HSC and Fire Service.

“To put this into context, £3million could have been spent on more than 212,000 hours of domiciliary care, over 75,000 treatments by a physiotherapist in the community, around 250 coronary artery bypass grafts or over 5,000 weeks in a nursing home for an elderly person.”

The Minister went on to highlight that as well as the financial cost of hoax calls, we should also be mindful of the very real risk they pose to human life. He said: “Let’s be clear – hoax calls can cost lives. No firefighter or ambulance service personnel can be in two places at once. If a crew is called out in response to a hoax call, that crew won’t be around to attend a genuine emergency - a domestic fire, heart attack or serious road traffic collision.”

Mr Poots added: “Hoax calls simply will not be tolerated and people who engage in this malicious activity should be aware of the penalties of doing so. If convicted of this criminal offence, a person can face imprisonment and a £5,000 fine.”