As people enjoy the New Year celebrations, calls to 999 are expected to surge, with teams working around the clock to deal with the demands. Image: BT

999 is the UK’s most memorable number and provides a vital service

The emergency services 999 line has provided a lifeline for members of the public to contact the Police, Fire, Ambulance or Coastguard for the last 80 years.

As people enjoy the New Year celebrations, calls to 999 are expected to surge, with teams working around the clock to deal with the demands.

Ian Watson, 999 Manager at BT, said:

“Our busiest period of the year is from about 9pm on New Year’s Eve to 3am on New Year’s morning when we receive almost half a day’s calls in just six hours with a peak of up to 9,000 calls per hour.”

Bedfordshire Police call handlers are ready for a busy night

The Christmas period is a busy time for Bedfordshire Police’s Force Contact Centre as it provides a round the clock service for people who need help. Chief Inspector Rachael Glendenning said:

“The weekends approaching Christmas are generally always busy, as are the first six or seven hours of the New Year when we can often take the equivalent of a day’s worth of 999 calls in that time.

“Of course while the majority of people who call 999 are in need of genuine help, we do receive non-emergency calls on 999, as well as calls that aren’t relevant to an emergency service.

“Hoax, nuisance or misguided calls are the last thing we need when we are busy. We’re asking people only to call 999 in a genuine emergency, to make sure the lines are kept free for people who need help.”

The 999 line handles thousands of critical calls but also some less well-judged requests

Some less well-judged 999 requests

Calls that UK police forces have received include:

  • “The Off Licence has closed early”
  • Requests for instructions on how to defrost a turkey
  • Requests for a lift home from the Police because no taxis are available
  • “What time does Sainsbury’s close?”
  • “Can I apply to the Police Station for a licence for Santa’s sleigh?”
  • “My mobile phone is not working – can you help?”
  • A report of someone who is not sleeping very well – can the Police recommend a solution?
  • A man woke at home after drinking heavily wearing a pair of handcuffs and wanted to know how to remove them