Some of the calls included people asking the operator for biryani recipes or whether they had time to engage in mindless chit-chat.
In 2019, Rescue 1122 received 20,555,131 phone calls across the whole of Punjab. Of these calls, only 1,192,044 were genuine emergency calls. The rest, 19,363,087 calls, were not related to any kind of emergency.
These calls have been categorised as ‘obnoxious’ in that they were abusive or engaged in misbehaviour with the operator. Other calls that come under this category include information-seeking calls, wrong calls (a misdialled call), irrelevant calls (where the caller is asking for information unrelated to emergencies), fake calls (the caller asked for help but when the team arrived at the location they found no emergency situation) or distorted calls.
The Provincial Monitoring Cell (PMC) of the service categorised 16,326,436 calls as obnoxious, 2,162,353 as information seeking, 845,980 as wrong calls and 28,318 as fake calls. The service only responded to 19 fake calls during the year.
Speaking to ‘The Express Tribune’, an officer explained that responding to these calls consumes a lot of energy as well as resources When the issue became too large to ignore, they attempted to identify the root of the fake calls. They realised that there were certain characteristics that the fake callers shared.
Typically, the fake callers will call from a calm and peaceful place. This means it is unlikely that the operators will hear any noise of traffic or vehicles in the background.
Since the screening began, Rescue 1122’s response (moving emergency teams) to fake calls has reduced drastically.
The service in Lahore received a total of 2,242,965 calls during the year. Only 8% — 183,866 — were emergency calls. As many as 2,059,099 calls received during the year were non-emergency. Out of these, 1,641,779 were marked as obnoxious, 284,471 as information seeking, 122,876 as wrong and 9,973 as fake calls.
A few of the non-emergency calls to the helpline were very funny. In a call, a woman asked for the recipe to cook Sindhi Biryani. When the operator told the caller that it was an emergency service, she told him that she had found the number from the internet.
Another woman made a call and said Eid Mubarak to the rescuers. When the rescuer told her that it was an emergency service helpline, she requested him not to be annoyed. She said she just had called for some chit-chat to overcome boredom.
In another call, the caller asked the rescuer to deliver a pizza. One caller informed the phone operator that a dog had died in an accident. In one call, minor children could be heard playing. In another, someone dialled the emergency service number and handed over the phone to children while the caller played music in the background.
The Rescue 1122 has appealed to the people to avoid making such calls to the helpline as it hampers the service from its prime duty besides wasting its resources and time.
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