The annual review of the Emergency Call Answering Service published by the Department of Communications has revealed the number of call-outs to emergency services decreased in 2015 by 13.5%.
Figures published by the Department of Communications show a total of 1,860,335 calls were received by the call service last year, which represents 289,110 fewer emergency calls than were made in 2014.
Official figures by the Department show calls received in 2015 were 48% below 2009 levels which shows that calls have almost halved in seven years. A decrease which the Department of Communications says was primarily due to fewer faulty lines resulting in a reduction in calls to ECAS.
The design of mobile handsets and the significant increase in the use of smartphones was also a significant factor in the findings as new phones make it more difficult to accidentally dial 112 or 999.
The review categorised calls to ECAS in 2015 ‘normal calls’ which the report says had remained effectively unchanged since 2011 at around 800,000. ‘Normal’ calls are those where a caller directly requests a specific emergency service and is connected to the desired operator.
The biggest decrease is in “silent calls” where nobody speaks to the operator. There were 864,000 fewer silent calls in 2015 than in 2010. However, they still accounted for 38% of last year’s total number of calls to ECAS.
Approximately 12% of calls are classified as “other” which include abandoned calls, misdials, abusive, children playing and those not requiring emergency services. The ECAS deals with all 112 and 999 calls and texts for the emergencies relating to Garda, Fire and Rescue, Ambulance service, the Coast Guard, Mountain Rescue and Air Traffic Control.
ECAS operators filter out non-emergency calls and free up time and resources of the emergency services to manage genuine requests for assistance. 50% of all calls to ECAS are filtered out annually. Approximately 60% of connected calls go to gardaí, 30% to ambulance, 8% to fire, and 1% to the Coast Guard.
Emergency Call Answering Service is a free call service to the public and is operated by BT Ireland, which is funded through a call-handling fee payable by the telecom service provider on whose network the call originates.
The annual review by the Department of Communications has shown the average response time for answering 112 or 999 calls is 0.73 seconds, which makes it one of the fastest response times in Europe, according to the European Commission.