Stupid reasons people call 999 (plus a way to skip the queue) 


The 999 switchboard gets a call in the UK once every 3 seconds. If that sounds like a lot, it is. But are these all life-and-death situations? No, and the police frequently release audio of some of the ridiculous reasons people call the emergency line, as a reminder of what they’re actually there for.


Figures released by the government show that the police answer a 999 call within 16 seconds, with that response time varying from force to force.


The announcement from the Met police that they will no longer be responding to calls around mental health unless it’s a life or death situation once again throws a spotlight on how the UK’s law enforcement resources are best used. And it’s not for any of the reasons below:


Hitting on the operators 

One woman called to say she was drunk, and her insides were getting bigger. When 999 dispatcher Wayne discussed further, it was deemed that he had a lovely accent, and the caller declared that she loved him. 


…Or the Prime Minister 

He was “her type of chap” apparently, and requested that she be put through to him. The dispatcher pointed out that she had called Luton and might have better luck if she tried London or Cambridgeshire. She’d already tried direct enquiries, so as she saw it, 999 was the next logical step. 


Snitching on bus drivers

One passenger decided that the whistling bus driver was committing a criminal offence. Especially because everyone was tired and cranky after a long day. One man only dreamed of being a passenger, and called 999 after his bus was three hours late. Even decries of “I’m an Englishman” did nothing to convince the operator that it was a life or death situation. 


…And beauty therapists 

A disgruntled customer pleaded an assault on her eyebrows.


As an alternative to Google

Highlights include being unable to find Homebase, asking what time Asda is open, and trying to find out if there are any barbershops open in Hampshire. In fairness, that last one thought he’d rung 998. Whatever that is. 


So, what happens if you have a genuine emergency? 

Audios of these calls are often released by emergency services to urge people not to waste operators’ time which could be spent dealing with a genuine emergency. In that instance, a life and death situation is classed as a “category 1” by police, who are targeted to respond within 15 minutes or less. 


A new personal safety alarm goes one step further, offering to bypass the 999 queue and go straight to a police control room in a genuine emergency. The Pick Guardian alarm, which is currently crowdfunding on Indiegogo, has highly-trained operators outside the 999 switchboard. Their accreditations mean they have a unique reference code which allows them to request a level 1 police response if needed.