Parents have been urged to supervise their children’s phone and calls after an increase in the number of nuisance calls made to Malin Head Coast Guard over the past week.
Derek Flanagan, divisional controller at Malin Head Coast Guard Station, told the ‘Journal’ that while it was not “unusual” to see an increase in nuisance calls to them during school holidays, such as the recent Easter break, they received six in one day earlier this week.
The majority of these nuisance calls were made by children, although some other calls Malin Head Coast Guard receive throughout the year also come from teenagers and adults.
While ‘nuisance’ calls aren’t deemed as disruptive as hoax calls, which lead to the tasking of emergency services, they are a strain on resources.
They take up the time and resources of Coast Guard operators who have to determine if the call is genuine and where it is coming from.
Mr Flanagan said: “While it’s not unusual for us to see an increase in ‘nuisance’ calls at this time of year and during school holidays, we have seen an increase on calls coming from children over the past week. We distinguish between nuisance calls and hoax calls in that the former are normally from children who tend to hang up fairly quickly when we answer.
“They mightn’t mean to do any harm but it does take up our time when the operators have to deal with them and determine whether they’re a nuisance call or if it is a genuine emergency. We would just ask if parents could possibly supervise their children’s phones or calls as best they can when they’re off. And maybe to just try and make them aware not to be phoning the coast guard if there isn’t any reason to.”
Mr Flanagan said that ‘hoax’ calls were the ones deemed as “fairly malicious” and take up a lot of the Coast Guard’s time and resources.
He said that when a hoax call is made - something which can be difficult to determine - the Coast Guard then has to deploy their search and rescue resources on something which is not a genuine emergency.
Mr Flanagan said that on many occasions, these calls aren’t made by children.
He added that non-emergency calls made to them normally fall into four different categories: the nuisance calls, normally made by young children - many who may not be aware of the implications of such a call; older children and teenagers who know who they are ringing, sometimes become abusive and hang up; the ‘serial callers’ who are adults which may, on occasion, have consumed alcohol, may be abusive and who call continuously asking for the Coast Guard and finally, the hoax calls.
Mr Flanagan added however that the Coast Guard possess the technology to track and determine where a phone call is coming from. For example, if a call is being made from Dublin and the caller says they are in difficulty off Malin Head, it can make the hoax call easier to determine. The Coast Guard works alongside the Gardai to pursue these hoax calls and prosecutions in relation to them have taken place.
It has been reported that Coast Guard stations across the country have also seen an increase in nuisance calls over the Easter school holidays with the Dublin Coast Guard Station receiving 12 by lunchtime on Wednesday.