The Saint Lucia Fire Service (SLFS) has expressed concern about the number of prank calls being received on a daily basis.
Sub Officer Fernando James told the Times that on average the Fire Service receives between seventy and eighty prank calls a day.
“Maybe we might have to make an example of someone before this can stop because it is illegal,” he declared.
The Fire Service official revealed that the police and the SLFS are working to deal with the problem.
“It can be tiresome, bothersome, especially in the wee hours of the morning and late at night – but again we do have a duty to perform and we will pick up that phone every single time a call comes in,” James said.
He explained that every time a 911 call is received it is answered and the information noted.
James said the person calling is interviewed and based on the information received an appropriate response, whether by ambulance, rescue vehicle or fire truck is made.
He told the Times that persons would call the 911 line claiming there is an accident or that someone had been shot.
James said at times there are “inappropriate” sounds at the other end of the line or the caller would hurl abuse and then hang up.
He stated that the Fire Service at times hangs up on prank callers.
“What we have found is that when we put the line down the person at the other end still has his or her line activated and this has the 911 line busy, preventing someone who has a real emergency from getting though to the Fire Department,” the SLFS official noted.
James disclosed that the Fire Service has two emergency lines.
He said the pranksters are adults, adolescents and children.
A Grande Riviere resident who lost her home to fire this week told the Times that neighbours had reported that the Fire Service failed to respond immediately after a child called to report that the dwelling house was on fire and came only after others raised the alarm.
Asked whether there was a policy of being suspicious of calls by children, James responded in the affirmative.
“If we receive a call and a child is giving the information we will ask the child if there is an adult nearby whether it be in the house or in the car or by the roadside – we will verify if the child is giving valid information,” he explained.
However James acknowledged that this may not always be possible since the adult may be the victim.
In that case he said the information will be noted and acted on.