Firefighters issue warning to hoax callers in Medway
Kent Fire and Rescue Service (KFRS) hopes a new poster campaign will remind people of the punishment they face for such a crime.
"As well as wasting our valuable resources, hoax calls have the potential to divert us from a real emergency - just imagine if that's your family caught in a house fire or a serious car crash but our crews are elsewhere," says Medway Fire Station Manager Jim Ramsden. "This is a serious matter and if you're caught, you face a large fine and possibly a jail term."
The poster shows barbed wire and the headline: "Book your free prison cell today! Just hoax call 999". A further message adds: "Your call will be monitored for legal purposes and you will be caught and criminally prosecuted. Standard call rates apply - mobiles calls will also be charged."
It will be put up at public phone boxes and at a number of public sites across the area, including those where automatic fire alarms have been falsely activated.
The Medway Community Safety Partnership - which includes KFRS, Kent Police, Medway Council, probation, youth offending and various health agencies - is supporting the campaign. Chief Superintendent Steve Corbishley, area commander for Kent Police in Medway and the chair of Medway CSP, said: "We wholeheartedly support this campaign. Hoax calls waste time and cost lives. These posters should make anyone considering dialling 999 without good reason to think again."
Those who deliberately set off a false alarm are committing a crime and if they are caught, they can face a £2,500 fine or three months in prison. If you dial 999 and make a hoax call you may be committing more than one offence. If caught you can get a £5,000 fine, six months in prison, or both!
Jim Ramsden added: "Hoax calls may be seen as a 'prank' but the results can be very serious. All hoax calls are reported to BT's Malicious Calls Bureau and the police and fire services work together to track down the culprits, using recordings of the call as evidence. A number of people have been successfully prosecuted in this way.
Because more hoax calls are being made from pre-pay mobile phones, Kent Fire and Rescue Service is working with mobile phone service providers to make sure these hoaxers pay the price. After a few precautionary checks, mobile phones which are used to make hoax calls can now be deactivated by the service provider call centre at the touch of a button.
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