By Joanna Hartley
Some Dubai residents are calling the emergency number to ask which bottled water is healthy.
More than half of emergency calls to the 999 number in Dubai are trivial inquiries, according to the director of the police command and control room Colonel Omar Abdullah Al Shamsi.
Recent queries have included whether a certain brand of bottled water is healthy or not, how to check the credit on a mobile phone and advice on where to find a lost dog, Al Shamsi revealed.
Some people even divert the annoying calls they receive on their mobile phones to 999, he told UAE daily Gulf News.
“We have been [repeatedly] saying that 999 is for emergency calls only, for years now, but the situation remains the same as more than half of the calls received on 999 continue to be trivial, general inquiries," he said.
"We bring those who do such things and make them sign undertaking not to repeat such thing and if repeated, we take strict action against them.”
The diverse cultural backgrounds of people living in Dubai is one of the main factors behind the issue, with some people using the number as a general inquiry line because it is free, Al Shamsi added.
The command centre receives 1.7 million calls a year of which 549,892 are deemed trivial.
On average 8,000 to 10,000 calls are made each day and the 30 police personnel on duty have to treat each one as an emergency – answering the call within three rings.
"The personnel attending to calls on 999 try to answer the non-emergency inquiries of all callers in every way possible, but if information is unavailable, the personnel guide callers to where they can find the information," Al Shamsi said.
Anyone who is not in danger or in dire need of help should call the police general enquiries line on 04-2694848.
Not sure about Dubai, but try calling 999 while in Sharjah. You're lucky if they pick up the phone at all. Last time I had an accident I had to call 5 times and each time ringing for a few minutes before some one finally answered. We waited for over an hour and no police showed up, although we were only blocks away from a police station. So we decided to just go to the station and file a report, since there was no dispute over who was at fault. I tried calling 999 again to inform them that we don't need a police officer any more. Not surprisingly, no one picked up. We went to the police station and although the investigating officer in charge of filing reports was having a loud personal conversation on the phone, and obviously not busy, refused to file a report for us, commanding us rudely to go back to the accident site. After a bit of shouting and complaining, which we are getting good at, another officer, very reluctantly agreed to break his chat with other fellow officers and file a report. Sharjah police service is atrocious.
Funny thing though, I called up 181 just today (since they are an enquiry service) to ask them who could help me if someone keeps annoying me with calls and i want to find out who it is. And well they suggested i call the police too.
While I have no doubt that a lot of people are mis-using the emergency lines, the numbers quoted here seem dodgy to me. 549 thousand calls out of 1.7m. That's less than a third, let alone half. Also, if they are receiving an average of "8000-10,000" calls a day, that's well over 3 million calls a year. These guys need to brush up on their math.
I agree with OS - the numbers don't add up!! Maybe someone else had the abacus that day when the interview was given...
although i am not condoning the trivial calls, it is however rather difficult to reach the Police any other way, initially the phones don't get answered on a regular landline number, then you have the problem of language barrier from the call taker, then you get put through so many different people, it makes you want to tear your hair out!