Emergency services concerned by recent hoax calls

Upper Yarra SES and other emergency services were targeted by a hoax call that dragged crews out to Reefton. Picture: ON FILE

By Callum Ludwig

A pair of hoax calls have frustrated emergency services in the Upper Yarra this week.

The two calls are believed to be unrelated, but each caused disruption to the personal lives of emergency services personnel and local volunteers.

Upper Yarra SES Unit Controller Hannah Brunton said they were paged to reports of a supposed high-velocity car accident as a person struck a tree in Reefton on Tuesday.

“We sent out three vehicles with six members, while our RAC (Regional Agency Commander) was also sent out from Launching Place as support, which happens when a job is expected to be a bad one,” she said.

“The call came in from someone in Queensland saying that they had received a call from this person allegedly driving the vehicle, but the person in question was just asleep at home and minding his own business and knew nothing about it.”

The response to the hoax incident, which also involved Ambulance Victoria, Victoria Police and CFA cost some responders an hour and half of their time.

Ms Brunton said it’s really bizarre, as she has been with SES for five years and never previously had a hoax call.

“It’s pretty rough and demoraling considered a lot of us are volunteers, my partner is one of our volunteers as well, he was at home with one of our dogs in the laundry having dinner and he had to call the neighbour and get the neighbour to go and let the dog out, because he was expecting that was going to be out of the house for a while,” she said.

“All of our members make adjustments to whatever it is that they’re doing at the time when it’s necessary, they stop what they’re doing with their kids, they stop cooking dinner, they leave a party on Christmas Day.”

Wesburn/Millgrove CFA crews were awoken at around midnight the night of Wednesday 24 January to a call which turned out to be fake.

Wesburn/Millgrove CFA Captain Sascha Grant said it disrupted crew members sleep and potentially their work the next day.

“We spent half an hour trying to contact the caller, locate the incident before we could rule it out as a false alarm, thankfully, we had no other calls at the same time because there’s always the chance we have to respond to more than one incident and work out what’s the priority,” he said.

“It’’s very disappointing, we were initially paged to go Code One, lights and sirens to the job, especially at that time of night, if we can avoid lights and sirens, it stops the disruption and level of concern within the community.”

Making a call to emergency services within the intention of inducing the belief that there is an emergency when there isn’t is a criminal offence, and can incur a maxium penalty of three years imprisonment.

A Victoria Police spokesperson said some people fail to see the bigger picture or understand the consequences of their actions when they misuse an emergency service.

“Nuisance calls can place lives at risk as it slows operators down from answering the genuine calls,” they said.

“Every time we answer a nuisance call, that’s 30 seconds or a minute of call-taker time lost to answer a real call that’s next in the queue.”

A shorter term of imprisonment or a large fine could also be issued for the offence.

Ms Brunton said emergency services can’t be everywhere at once and it opens them up to Murphy’s Law (Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong).

“There’s every possibility that we can be called to a hoax in Reefton while there is something we need to attend in Yellingbo and now we’re in the complete wrong place at the wrong time and someone’s life will possibly be in danger,” she said.

“The people who make these prank calls don’t really consider that that could impact somebody else’s life, it’s not just wasting our time but it could have been really real dire consequences for others.”