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Rescue services busy enough without latest trend: dangerous selfies

Phone calls to emergency service numbers in Finland peak in the summer each year, as many residents enjoy their annual holiday. This summer however rescue personnel have a new challenge on their hands: adventurous selfie-takers.

Image: Yle Uutisgrafiikka

July is the busiest month for Finland’s rescue services. Jarkko Häyrinen of the ministry of interior’s department for rescue services has the statistics to prove it.

“There’s definitely a spike. Finland has an average of 8,500 rescue calls each month, but that number rises by a thousand in June and yet another thousand in July,” he says.

Fire and rescue services in Finland respond to all manner of alarms, including putting out grass or forest fires and clearing up during and after storms.

“Summers tend to feature a lot more animal rescues, but the tasks that keep us most busy usually involve alcohol or other intoxicants in some way,” says Helsinki rescue department’s fire chief Markku Holopainen.

Concerned eyewitnesses phone in

The summer of 2016 will be also remembered for its spate of audacious selfies, where people get themselves into highly dangerous situations in order to snap a picture with an impressive background.

“There are surprising amounts of people now who climb to high places like towers, silos, chimneys, the roofs of buildings and the top of maintenance ladders to take pictures of themselves,” says Holopainen.

More often than not, the call-ins to emergency services come from passersby that are worried that the risky photo enthusiast may be suicidal or fall.

Distracting from real emergencies

Holopainen says the selfie crowd should bear in mind that they are putting more lives than their own at risk with their shenanigans.

“People that climb to high places to take pictures of themselves often lead to an entire rescue unit being called out, which ties up an important life-saving resource. We could be needed somewhere else where there is really an emergency,” he says. 

One-fifth of 112 calls false

Rescue service call centres received a total of 2,780,000 emergency calls last year, 638,000 of which were erroneous. The calls deemed to have been made in error were either misdialled, inappropriate or hoaxes.

“Some prank caller gets it into his head to call the call centre dozens of times, and another hangs up as soon as someone answers. Malicious calls report made-up incidents and cause false alarms. Fortunately, the incidence of these kinds of calls in general is down,” says the director of the emergency call centre in the Kerala municipality, Vesa Seppä.

Several people call the emergency number each year to simply ask for directions or advice. Others call because they are lonely.

“They’ll call 112 because they know the call centre is open 24/7. They may not have another number they can call and they need someone to talk to. They know we will always answer.”

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