Happy 70th birthday 999
There were 1,336 calls on the new 999 number in the first week of July 1937, of which 1,073 were genuine, 171 were from callers who wanted to get straight through the operator, and 91 were practical jokes - proving, sadly, that the problem of pointless calls is as old as the service itself.
Their number leapt about six years ago, after it became possible to call 999 on a mobile phone, vastly increasing the risk of unintended calls. In one case, the operator could hear only voices in the background and the sound of rushing water. Fearing that someone was drowning, she connected the call to the police, who also thought it was something serious. Then she heard a man's puzzled voice on the line saying hello. He had heard voices coming out of the toilet. He discovered he had dropped his mobile into the pan.
Other calls, made deliberately, leave the mind boggling at the petty self-obsession of the callers. There was the 31-year-old who dialled 999 because she had sniffed deodorant by accident; a man who expected the police to take him home because he had run out of cash; a man from Suffolk who summoned an ambulance crew to remove a dead rat from his loft; a 22-year-old woman who had a blackhead which would not stop bleeding after she had squeezed it; a model who called out Gloucestershire Ambulance Service when she broke her fingernail; and a man who rang up to ask how much it would cost to hire an ambulance to take him to a private hospital.
One woman rang for an ambulance to help a man who had had a nasty fall, who turned out to be a character in that week's episode of Emmerdale.