Changes in the design of mobile phone handsets and a reduction in the number of faulty telephone lines have contributed to a significant decline in the number of 112 and 999 calls, according to the Department of Communications.

The number of calls to emergency services decreased by 13.5% in 2015, according to the annual review of the Emergency Call Answering Service.

Figures published by the Department of Communications show a total of 1,860,335 calls were recorded by the ECAS last year. It represents 289,110 fewer emergency calls than were made in 2014.

The latest annual decline continues a trend evident over the past seven years, with emergency calls now almost halved over the period. Official figures show such calls in 2015 were 48% below 2009 levels.

The Department of Communications said the decrease was primarily due to fewer faulty lines resulting in a reduction in calls to ECAS.

Another reason is changes in the design of mobile handsets and the significant increase in the use of smartphones, which make it more difficult to accidentally dial 112 or 999.

“Previous handset design had caused inadvertent calls to be put through to ECAS,” the annual review stated.

It claimed the number of calls to ECAS in 2015 categorised as “normal calls” had remained effectively unchanged since 2011 at around 800,000 — 42% of last year’s total.

“Normal” calls are those where a caller directly requests a specific emergency service and is connected to the desired operator.

Most other categories of calls have declined in recent years. 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.

Around 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 Garda, fire, ambulance, Coast Guard and Air Traffic Control emergencies.

ECAS operators filter out non-emergency calls and free up time and resources of the emergency services to manage genuine requests for assistance.

Around half 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 calls are free to the caller, while ECAS, which is operated by BT Ireland, is funded through a call-handling fee payable by the telecom service provider on whose network the call originates.

The average response time for answering 112 or 999 calls is 0.73 seconds, which is one of the fastest in Europe, according to the European Commission.


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