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January 10, 2012

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Emergency line calls' validity often lacking

YOU never know what a 110 caller might be talking about.

Last week, a man who seemed to be drunk called the emergency number and kept repeating ambiguous words that were hard to understand.

The operator then turned on a voice prompt warning him not to harass the hotline. But the man just started to chat with the voice prompt, apparently having no idea he wasn't talking to a person.

Last November, a little girl about three years old called 110 reporting that there were no cartoons on television.

Hearing such an innocent voice, the operator did not scold her but asked her to find her mother and hung up the phone with a sweet ending after the girl responded "Thank you."

These are two recent examples of the 22,000 invalid emergency calls that police receive every day due to people's inadequate knowledge or lack of calling skills, police said, adding that they constitute about two-thirds of the total calls.

Yesterday marked the 19th anniversary of the 110 service launch in the city, and police appealed to locals to call 110 in a correct way to make the service more efficient and save the line for those in need.

The Shanghai Public Security Bureau receives about 35,000 calls every day, with nearly two thirds of them invalid.

Lu Feng, a media coordinator for the police, said the invalid callers come in three main categories: those who hang up before the operator can forward the call to the proper agency; those reporting the same information, such as crimes, fire or suicide, that the agency already knows about; and those calling with irrelevant issues such as gas, water or power fees.

Lu also pointed that the hotline receives plenty of harassing calls.

"We once received more than 6,000 harassing calls in a day," Lu said. "Such calls usually occur on summer and winter holidays, and most of them hang up the phone immediately when the operator puts it through."

Punishment for mischief

Police also reminded locals that calling 110 to deliberately report false information or disturb public order can result in serious punishment.

In a recent case on December 14, a man called police and threatened to jump out of a hotel room in Yangpu District.

Police soon cordoned the area and finally got the man under control after more than four hours of negotiation.

The incident caused hundreds of onlookers on the street and different versions of rumors.

In fact, the man, not identified, just had a dispute with his wife and called the police after she left, police said.

The man was detained by the police for several days as a punishment for disturbing the public order.

Safety is 'our first priority'

"We often get such calls threatening that they are going to kill themselves, which does affect our emotions if we hear them a lot," said Jin Jie, an operator at the police calling center.

"But after all, the safety of people is our first priority and we will always take it seriously no matter whether they are going to end their life for real or not," Jin said.

Police encouraged locals to quickly describe what happened, with the exact address, to make sure the information or emergency can be handled as soon as possible.

"According to our experience, if the caller can make things clear, we are able to start to deal with the information in five seconds," Lu said.

The exact address of an emergency is the key piece of information, police said.

The number of emergency calls city police have received since 110 was founded in 1993.

The number of calls was about 12.6 million last year, 63 times the number in 1993.

The proportion of invalid calls police receive. The average daily calls in 2011 was 35,000.

The number of operators for 110. They are working 24/7 on the line with 60 per shift.

The operators can speak nine foreign languages - English, German, French, Japanese, Russian, Korean, Arabic, Spanish and Italian.


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