Tayside’s emergency fire and ambulance crews have spent nearly a fortnight responding to hoax calls over the past four years, the Tele can reveal.
Hundreds of calls have been made to both services which have led to a turn-out of staff, only for them to find it was malicious.
Firefighters have spent more than 14,700 minutes – a total of 246 hours or more than 10 days – responding to such incidents since 2015-16.
The majority of those calls involved fire alarms being activated deliberately, but they have also attended false reports about dangerous buildings, crashes and people in distress.
In 2017-18, crews spent more time attending hoax calls than any of the previous two years, at more than 5,200 minutes.
Between April and November this year, the figure stood at 2,228 minutes.
Terry Whyte, local representative for the Fire Brigades Union (FBU), said crews are working hard to inform children about the implications of making false 999 calls.
He said: “The FBU has been working with the fire and rescue service to try to drive this down.
“It’s down to education, such as going into schools and teaching kids about how important it is.
“Our officers could be tied up with something false when there is a much more serious incident going on elsewhere.
“We are constantly out speaking to kids about the dangers of making these kind of calls.
“If there’s a specific area that we’re getting these calls from, then we’ll go out to it.
“We certainly won’t be slowing down in trying to stop it happening for good.”
Meanwhile, paramedics in Tayside have also been on the receiving end of malicious calls – most frequently in Dundee.
Ambulance staff in the city have spent a total of 3,093 minutes responding to hoax calls since 2015-16 – equal to about 51 hours, or more than two days.
And figures suggest that 2018-19 is on track to be the worst year of the last four – with more than 740 minutes already spent on hoax incidents since April, more than the whole of 2015-16 and just short of figures from 2016-17 or 2017-18.
Callers have falsely reported patients having breathing problems, traumatic injuries, chest pains, burns, drowning and even stabbing or gunshot wounds, during their malicious calls.
A Scottish Ambulance Service spokesman said: “Anyone who calls 999 without a genuine need is potentially putting lives at risk by tying up valuable resources that could be needed for a life-threatening call.
“When appropriate, malicious or nuisance callers are reported to the police.
“However, in many cases, the call is a result of a social issue rather than malice and the patient may still need assistance.
“In these cases, the relevant agencies are advised so appropriate care can be provided.”
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “We condemn hoax calls to our emergency services. These are not victimless pranks and they can potentially distract vital resources and attention away from those who are in life-threatening situations.
“The Scottish Ambulance Service has been clear that when appropriate, malicious or nuisance callers are reported to the police.”