Sharjah: A woman rang 999 to complain about a dirty cat sat on her air conditioning unit, Sharjah Police have revealed.
The call was just one of many used as an example of how the emergency hotline is misused in the emirate.
In each shift, which lasts eight hours, police receive 900 to 1,000 calls on 999, but only 200-250 are genuine emergencies. The rest are transferred to the non emergency 901 number, which was launched in 2015 to relieve the burden on 999.
“We received a number of calls on the emergency number for general inquiries, wrong numbers or bogus emergencies which placed an extra and unnecessary strain on emergency resources,” said Colonel Jassim Bin Hada, Director of the Control Room at the Operations Department at Sharjah Police. “I ask people not to misuse the emergency number,” he added.
“When you call for a general inquiry, you are holding up the line and a person in a serious accident may not be able to reach the police,” he said.
“This is the biggest problem we face as a police operations room,” he added, citing that 999 was for emergencies and 901 was for non-emergencies.
Police received 1.2 million calls on 999 since the beginning of the year until the end of September but a huge number of them were related to minor non-emergency issues.
“We receive many calls that do not require the assistance of the police such as a woman calling police to ask them to help a dirty cat sat on her air conditioning unit near the animal market. The woman said the cat was tired, sick and needed assistance.”
Police diverted the call to municipality who arrived at the scene to find that there was nothing wrong with the cat and it was just sat on the air conditioning to keep cool.
Another caller was driving in Sharjah industrial area and witnessed a fight among a group of men. The driver stepped out of his car to provide assistance then phoned police to report the matter.
When police arrived all those involved had disappeared leaving only the caller.
Operators are required to phone back if someone hangs up after dialling 999 to find out the reason for hanging up. If the caller picks up and doesn’t speak a police patrol is immediately dispatched just in case its someone who has fallen ill and can’t speak.
“We have a goal, as mentioned in Sharjah Police’s strategy, to answer calls on 999 or 901 within three rings, which equals 10 seconds,” said Hada.
“The 901 service was launched in June 2015, for inquiries that are not related to emergencies in order to lessen the load of calls on 999,” he added.
The 901 number deals with complaints and suggestions, provides people with general information about addresses, locations and phone numbers of the police departments and police stations, and information about Sharjah Police events. The centre also provides required information and forms to people via email or fax.
The personnel answer calls in six languages — Arabic, English, Urdu, Persian , Russian and Chinese.
The non-emergency number 901 receives between 140,000 to 160,000 calls annually .