MORE than 297,000 prank calls were received by the Ghana National Fire Service (GNFS) between December 24 last year and January 2 this year.
On the average, the Fire Service received prank calls from 4,000 different phone numbers and 29,700 different calls on a daily basis within the period.
The Assistant Fire Master at the Fire Service Control Room, Divisional Officer Grade II (DOII) Mrs Joyce Ghansah, disclosed this to the Daily Graphic in an interview in Accra last Thursday.
A prank call, also known as crank call, is a telephone call intended by the caller as a practical joke played on the answering person. It is a type of nuisance call.
Within 10 minutes of the Daily Graphic reporter arriving at the master Control Room, about 30 prank calls were received.
Mrs Ghansah said out of the almost 300,000 calls received during the period, only three were calls from people genuinely in distress.
She said some of the prank callers demanded call recharge cards, others called to propose love to female officers who answered the calls, some others still rained insults on officers, while another group raised false alarms.
She noted that prank calls from the public had become a major challenge for the GNFS, adding that sometimes the only option was to block the phone numbers of such callers and make it impossible for them to call subsequently.
Mrs Ghansah said they had been compelled to apply such a measure — which would deny a caller access if a real emergency occurred in the future — in order to free the lines for persons who actually needed help.
According to her, there had been many instances where the GNFS dispatched fire tenders and officers only to find out on arrival at the scenes that they had been pranked, stressing that such occurrences resulted in losses for the service.
Delay and inconvenience
Mrs Ghansah explained that the pranks were sometimes responsible for fire officers delaying in arriving at scenes of fire as officers had to conduct some kind of investigation sometimes to ascertain whether indeed a property was on fire or an area needed emergency help.
“We just don’t know why people derive pleasure in playing pranks with such a serious issue as fire emergency,” she said.
“There was a time someone called that a bank was on fire at Adenta. Luckily for us, when the person was talking, an elderly person snatched the phone and told us the person was lying.
In fact, we almost dispatched fire tenders. Imagine moving all the way from Osu to Adenta just to waste fuel.
Fire outbreak is a serious issue and I don’t understand why people keep joking with it,” Mrs Ghansah stressed.
She said people usually complained about not being able to reach GNFS during emergencies and explained that most of the time it was because many prank calls were coming through.
“We have only three consoles and when these people keep disturbing us, the lines become engaged, making it difficult for other calls to come through,” she said.
Curbing the situation
The Head of Public Relations of the GNFS, DO II Ellis Robinson Okoe, indicated that the situation was very worrying and negatively impacted on the GNFS’s operations.
He said the service was collaborating with National Security to track persons who engaged in such activities.
“This is against the law, and I am sure when one or two people are sent to jail, it will serve as a deterrent to others,” he said.
Mr Okoe added that the GNFS had introduced 122 as an emergency line which would serve as an alternative telephone number for persons who were not able to reach the main emergency lines.
He disclosed that fire detection cameras had been installed in some parts of Accra to help the GNFS monitor fire outbreaks as part of new and innovative policies of the GNFS.