Rwanda National Police (RNP), Rwanda Utilities Regulatory Authority (RURA), the Ministry of Health and telecommunication companies have joined effort to sensitize the public against abuse of emergency help-lines.
The joint exercise to ensure effective use of the lines follows persistent cases of members of the public, who either call the emergency lines “for fun” and in some cases abuse attendants, thus causing call traffic and affecting interventions.
Addressing a joint press conference on November 24, RURA spokesperson Anthony Kulamba, said: “It has come to light that, on many occasions, some people make reckless and unnecessary calls to the help-lines, causing false alarms and blocking genuine emergency calls. This abuse poses serious danger to the public as it may result into loss of lives and properties.”
He further noted that toll-free lines (100, 110, 111, 112, 113, 114, 116, 1110 and 912) are “strictly meant for public safety and security in time of emergencies like fire incidents, ambulance service, quick security intervention and response – all designed to save lives and properties and should not be abused.”
RNP, one of the institutions affected by the abuse of its help-lines, operates about nine toll-free emergency lines including 110 for marine, 111 for fire incidents, 112 (general emergencies), 113 (traffic accidents), 116 (child help-line), and 3512 for gender based violence issues.
Chief Supt. Elie Mberabagabo, Commissioner for Command and Coordination at RNP, whose department is directly charged with the force’s call center, gave an assumption where fire breaks out somewhere and someone “finds it almost impossible” to reach out to police fire brigade for intervention probably due to “insensible calls” blocking them from accessing the services.
“When we started looking into this issue, we found out that most of the people involved are children who call using their parents’ phones. This is why we appeal to parents to manage their gadgets and keep them far from the reach of children or teach them on the use of these lines,” CSP Mberabagabo said.
The officer in charge of Media Relations in Rwanda Biomedical Center (RBC) Gaspard Habarurema, said that in some cases, some people call the ambulance helpline (114) and insults the operators including use of vulgar words.
“We have also witnessed cases of false alarms where someone calls for an ambulance, we rush there and only to find that the caller lied about the location or the incident; that is wastage of public resources,” said Habarurema.
Representatives of the institutions say they have resolved to use all means possible to reach out to all Rwandans and sensitize them against abuse of emergency help-lines, but called for members of the public with knowledge partner in safety and security by teaching their communities on the effective use of these lines.