A prank call to 999 could put you in prison, warns the fire chief.

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The announcement came after new data revealed that the fire department on Merseyside had received hundreds of prank calls, wasting the firefighters’ valuable time.

A Merseyside fire chief has issued a warning to the jokers that prank calls “endanger the lives of people”.

A wrong or malicious call to the emergency services is a criminal offence.

Any such call could put others at risk by straining fire department resources and possibly result in a firefighter not reaching a real emergency.

These were cases where a person called 999 or triggered an alarm even though they knew for certain that there was no real emergency.

The latest figures from the Home Office show that Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service received 227 malicious calls in 2019/20.

Now, Merseyside Fire and Rescue has issued a public statement stating that the callers – who are looking for a cheap laugh – are “very demanding” on vital resources.

But the message doesn’t seem to be getting through to their homes.

Last year’s total was the second highest in seven years, and firefighters received 40 more hoax calls in 2019/20 than the year before.

said area manager Gary Oakford: “When our firefighters are called to an incident that simply doesn’t exist, it means they are unable to respond to other potentially life-threatening incidents – we simply can’t be in two places at once.

And parents are encouraged to make their children aware of the sad consequences that can result from wrong calls.

“It may seem like harmless fun, but hoax calls are a huge burden on fire and rescue services.

“Simply put, hoax callers put people’s lives in danger.

“Not only do they mean that our firefighters are busy elsewhere, but they also put additional pressure on our control room personnel, who not only answer the hoax calls, but also send people and equipment to these “incidents.

“Before you pick up the phone to ‘laugh’, remember that it could be your friends or family who need our help.

“Time is of the essence when it comes to an emergency, and any delay caused by crews dealing with a hoax call could potentially be the difference between life and death.

Mr Oakford said that making a false or malicious call to the emergency services is a criminal offence and those responsible will be punished.

He added: “All calls in our control room are recorded and can be traced back to the caller, including calls made from public pay phones and cell phones.

“As we approach the night of the bonfire, a time that is already very busy for us, I would urge parents to talk to their children about the consequences of false calls, not only to us, but to all emergency services”.

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