Following record numbers of non-emergency related callouts between 2012 and 2013, the London Fire Brigade has started using their Twitter account to prompt people to think carefully before dialling 999.
The "Fifty Shades effect"
Since 2010, the brigade has attended more than 1,300 incidents involving people being trapped or stuck, spurring firemen across London to call for a little more common sense:
“Some of the incidents our firefighters are called out [to] could be prevented with a little common sense. I don’t know whether it’s the Fifty Shades effect, but the number of incidents involving items like handcuffs seems to have gone up. I’m sure most people will be Fifty Shades of red by the time our crews arrive to free them,” stated Third Officer, Dave Brown.
The hashtag #FiftyShadesofRed has become one of the slogans of the campaign and features at the end of many tweets, perhaps hoping to serve as a reminder of the embarrassment and pain that can be caused in such situations.
Between 2010 and 2011 crews attended 416 non-emergency incidents; a number that rose to 441 from 2011 to 2013, then escalated to 453 between 2012 and 2013. According to the brigade, each incident costs taxpayers at least £290 (336€) bringing the overall cost of the incidents between 2010 and 2013 to at least £377,000 (436,513€).
Using the Twitter handle @LondonFire, the brigade has started sending out a series of tweets including top tips and examples of bizarre callouts, designed to encourage people to think of the potential consequences of their actions:
“2nd top tip of the day: Don’t put your manhood into a spanner. Yep, we were called to that too.”
Calling the fire brigade when stuck in a painful situation is apparently quite common, inciting the use of the hashtag “Ouch”:
“Some of the incidents we’re called to make us wince just thinking about them … hands in blenders, shredders & hedge trimmers #Ouch.”
Further unusual call outs the brigade has attended in the past are said to include a man whose penis was entangled in a vacuum cleaner and another who trapped his penis in a toaster. According to the London Fire Brigade website, fire crews are called to more than one incident per day involving somebody who is trapped or stuck:
“People getting into a jam with rings, bracelets and watches are a common occurrence, while firefighters are also regularly called to assist people and children with their fingers trapped in electrical items like washing machines, sewing machines and heaters.”
Almost 500 call outs between 2010 and 2013 were to people with rings stuck on their fingers, the most common non-emergency callout during the period. A brigade spokesperson offered the following suggestion: “Our advice is simple. If the ring doesn’t fit, don’t force it on. As well as being painful, you could end up wasting emergency service time if you have to call us out.”
“When firefighters are out attending to some of these avoidable incidents, someone else could be in real need of emergency assistance,” added Brown.
The brigade is, however, keen to highlight the importance of dialing 999 in the case of a true emergency:
“I’d like to remind everyone that 999 is an emergency number and should only be used as such,” stressed Brown. “If there’s a genuine emergency, fire crews will of course attend and will be on the scene to help within minutes,” he added.
On their website, the London Fire Brigade has issued three top tips to help people steer clear of sticky situations: something to consider reading before your next adventure with a hedge trimmer, perhaps.
3rd top tip: If you think you’re too big to fit into your child’s toy car: you are, like the man we rescued in Kingston 2 years ago #Wedged