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Triple Zero Hoaxes And Hypochondriacs Wasting Time And Money

A call to Triple Zero can be the difference between life and death, and those we rely on in emergency situations are begging the public to not waste the time of these vital services.

But hoax callers continue to take up the valuable time of Triple Zero call takers.

Meg Atkinson, Call Taker Team Leader for NSW Ambulance, told 10 daily hoax calls happen "far too often" and on a daily basis.

"We get them regularly, and we take them between life and death situations, so the fact that we would get them at all is terrible," she said.

Triple 0 Call Centre taker Chris Pollack, who stars in Ambulance Australia. Image: Network TEN.

Atkinson, who appears on Channel 10's show Ambulance Australia, noted the number of hoax calls the centre receives does tend to rise over school holidays, but adults have been known to call as well.

"We do receive those types of calls from adults, who you would like to think would know better or have a bit more sense," she said.

ACT Policing use true hoax call stories as a social media strategy to remind Canberra residents that Triple Zero is for emergency situations only.

"OK Canberra, this one is just ridiculous! Please DO NOT call Triple Zero (000) and ask us to message your mate to tell them you’re out of credit," ACT Policing tweeted on Tuesday.

While the audacity of the caller may seem funny at first, each call takes precious time away from real emergencies, and the public must be aware of the real purpose of Triple Zero, an ACT Policing spokesperson told 10 daily.

"We get a long list from the Triple Zero call takers every month or so," he said.

"So we use them regularly to remind people what Triple Zero is for."

Image: AAP

But it's not just hoax calls that are a problem, calls for non-emergency situations are a far more common problem call takers have to deal with.

"We get calls for stubbed toes, sore throats. People call up to make inquiries about ambulance bills," Atkinson said.

Over a call taker's 12 hour shift, they can take up to 100 calls for help.

"It can be really stressful when you get calls that aren't emergencies, it is frustrating," Atkinson said.

"You know that there are people calling for serious matters and they might have to wait to get through."

She said the man power wasted on a hoax or non-emergency call is significant.

"In the first instance, it is the call takers time that is wasted. We are in a high volume situation when we are on the phone, and if a person with a life-threatening situation calls and can't get through, every second counts," Atkinson said.

But once a location is given -- no matter if it is a hoax or not -- an emergency response unit must be deployed.

"Once we have an address, we can't take that risk. We have to assume there is a patient there that needs our help," she said.

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This then removes resources -- whether it be ambulance, police, fire crews or a combination of the three -- from incidents that may be a real emergency.

"Then you've got the dispatchers' time being wasted, and because you don't know how elaborate the hoax is, we might have several cars responding."

Image: AAP

One hoax call in particular has stuck with Atkinson.

She received a call that somebody had pulled a body from a river and the person wasn't breathing.

"It was a rural location they were giving me, I was trying to get a description of where they were and give out instructions for CPR," Atkinson said.

"I could hear this person performing CPR, they were counting out loud the compressions, and I could hear they were getting breathless like they were giving CPR."

Image: Getty Images

But as Atkinson soon found out, the 'rural' location did not exist, and there had been multiple Triple Zero calls with a similar story that night.

"But a job like that, where it is rural and a job of that nature, you're likely to have helicopters and everything going there," she said.

READ MORE: 'We Get Verbally Abused And Threatened Every Day' Says Triple 0 Call Taker

Atkinson's message is simple.

"Don't waste our time," she said.

"And please, don't abuse us."

Watch Ambulance Australia on Channel 10 on Tuesday at 7.30pm or on 10 play.

Image: Getty Images

Contact the author at jdunne@networkten.com.au