A burden on 999 line that we can do without
By Shanti Gunaratnam
KUALA LUMPUR: An urgent lack of civic consciousness is reflected in the disclosure that a staggering 97 per cent of the 1.2 million calls made to emergency line 999 every month are crank calls.
The pranksters, who are from all over the country, are mainly children, teenagers and those with mental problems.
However, only two people have been taken to court for making crank calls -- a woman in Perlis who was fined RM4,000 and a teenager in Penang who was bound over for good behaviour for RM5,000.
Telekom Malaysia Berhad Malaysia Emergency Response Services (MERS) 999 project director Rozinah Anas told the New Sunday Times that since 999 received some one million crank calls every month, a significant amount of time and effort was wasted attending to them.
"This is an uncalled for burden on those manning the system, as genuine calls may be prevented from getting through."
The line also receives non-emergency calls, such as enquiries for telephone numbers.
A total of 70.5 per cent of crank calls are made from mobile phones, 21 per cent from payphones and 8.5 per cent from fixed lines.
Currently, MERS 999 has 150 employees at emergency response centres in Kuala Lumpur, Malacca and Kuching.
The highest number of professional emergency officers (PEO) on duty at a certain time is 50 while the lowest is 12.
Rozinah said the MERS 999 was capable of recording the conversation between the caller and PEO.
"This allows us to verify whether the calls are genuine, evaluate PEO performance and assist in investigations.
"When a call is made, the phone number and address will appear on the PEO's computer screen. If the call is made from a mobile phone, only the phone number will appear.
"Our PEO will verify calls by asking for a few pertinent details, including the name of the caller, nature and location of the emergency and the caller's alternative contact number.
"This is the standard procedure to determine the authenticity of the call before connecting the call to an emergency service agency."
If the call is not genuine, the PEO will advise the caller not to make such calls again.
She said many steps had been taken to create awareness of the danger of crank calls. They include advertorials, campaigns and talk shows.
An official from the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission said the problem had been critical for some years now.
"Most of the calls are made by children and we cannot take them to court under section 233 of the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998 because they are underaged.
"There are also those who are mentally unstable and lonely."
Individuals convicted for such conduct can be fined not more than RM50,000 or jailed one year, or both.