If you require the fire and rescue service, always dial 999. You can do this from any private, public or mobile phone for free.
Please be aware that all calls made in and out of our Service Control Centre are recorded, including 999 calls. Dorset & Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service (DWFRS) is in partnership with Hampshire FRS and Devon & Somerset FRS and, during busy periods, your 999 call may be taken by them – however, this does not affect how we respond to you.
- Don’t be afraid to dial 999 in an emergency, even if you’re not sure if there is a fire, small or large. It’s better to be safe than sorry.
- Don’t attempt to contact your local fire station or any numbers listed in the telephone directory. Call 999 and ask for the fire service, you will be transferred to our Service Control Centre. Fire crews are only dispatched via Control.
- Don’t assume that someone else must have already rung for the fire service. We would rather receive several calls to an emergency than none at all.
- Don’t call the Police for a fire; if there is a crime, we will ask them to attend.
- Do dial 999 and ask for the fire service, no matter how small the fire is, because small fires can quickly spread into larger fires.
What happens when you dial 999
Your call will be answered by a telephone exchange operator who will ask you which emergency service you require. Stay on the line and you will then be connected to our Service Control Centre, NOT your local fire station.
Even if you have barred the ‘calling line identity’ facility, your telephone number will be displayed to the telephone exchange operator. This is a safety feature to help us ascertain an approximate location of the emergency.
As you are being connected to the fire service, you may hear the telephone exchange operator passing your telephone number to the Fire Control Operator. Please don’t interrupt, it is vital we can record this information.
The Fire Control Operator will then ask you a number of questions:
- We need to know the address of where the emergency is.
- Providing a postcode is extremely helpful and then confirming the full address as you would write it down for someone.
- This information is entered into our computer system so we can pinpoint exactly where our fire crews need to attend. It is often at this stage that the first appliances are alerted for mobilisation.
- We need to know what is on fire, or what other emergency you have, so we can determine what our response will be; for example, how many fire crews and what special equipment we will send.
- Focus on what the Fire Control Operator is saying/asking and answer as best you can. It is easy to get distracted when other members of public are in the background.
- We need to know if you and/or others are trapped inside a building to enable our highly trained operators to offer fire survival advice – this is only given if those trapped absolutely cannot get out.
- Nearby landmarks, such as pubs, churches, shop names, are valuable sources of reference to help our crews reach your location as quickly as possible.
- We need to know the telephone number that you are calling from so that we can contact you again, should we need any further information from you. This information is not given to anyone other than emergency services personnel.
- We may need to know your name and address. This can be used as a guide to where the fire has been seen from and to enable the crew to locate the original caller if there are any difficulties locating the incident.
It may seem as though you are being asked too many questions and your call is taking too long to deal with; don’t worry, the fire crews are mobilised quickly and usually while we are still talking to you. We can then gather other valuable information from you which will be passed to the firefighters while they are on their way to the incident. This information may include things such as where in a building people are trapped or whether there are hazards nearby, such as an oil tank or gas cylinders.
We endeavour to handle emergency calls to the Service Control Centre within 90 seconds from receipt of the initial call to mobilising the fire appliance.
Get out, stay out, get the fire service out!
- If you have a fire, do not attempt to extinguish it unless it is safe to do so. Leave the property, closing all the doors behind you, and do not go back into the property until you are told it is safe to do so by the firefighters who attend.
- If you are trapped by a fire and cannot get out of the building safely, don’t panic, our fire control operator will stay on the line with you and has been specifically trained to offer you fire survival guidance to help you until the fire engine arrives. (fire doors will withstand a fire for approximately 30 minutes).
- Unless you are directly affected by the fire and have an opportunity to escape, don’t put the telephone down until we have taken all the details.
Hoax and malicious calls
Making hoax and malicious calls is a criminal offence. Such calls tie up emergency crews so they are not available for real, potentially life-threatening incidents.
The Fire and Rescue Service receives dozens of such calls every year, made from payphones, mobile phones and landlines. We also have issues with people deliberately smashing break-glass alarm points.
Malicious callers are not only an enormous drain on resources; their thoughtless behaviour endangers the lives and safety of the public.
All calls to our Control room are recorded and can be instantly traced back to the caller. This doesn’t just apply to landlines; even calls from payphones and mobiles are taped and can be traced. The 141 function or equivalent does not block the number when you call 999.
The consequences of making hoax or malicious calls
- All hoax and malicious calls are passed to the Police as crimes. Tapes of the call, details of the incident and any witness statements will be provided as part of that criminal investigation.
- Any perpetrator can be prosecuted for making such calls, and can face a hefty fine and/or up to six months in prison if convicted.
- The Fire and Rescue Service has an agreement with the major phone companies that enables the disconnection of mobile phones and landlines if they have been used to commit hoax or malicious calls. If this happens, the owner of the phone will be blacklisted by all major networks and phone companies.
- In persistent problem areas, specialist or existing CCTV can be used to assist in identifying an offender.
How you can help
If you know of someone who makes hoax or malicious calls, you can call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.