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Fire brigade battles a flood,of distress calls

Step into the underground control-room of Byculla fire station,and one would feel the city is on fire,going by the barrage of distress calls received almost every second on its 16 lines.

Written by Mohan Kumar | Mumbai |
May 24, 2009 2:34:55 am

Step into the underground control-room of Byculla fire station,and one would feel the city is on fire,going by the barrage of distress calls received almost every second on its 16 lines.

The calls are becoming an irritant to the handful of fire brigade staff manning the controls,for,the chunk of the thousands of calls made to 101 are wrong calls or made from mobile phone users complaining of network problems,or enquiring about recharging or bill payments.

“When they learn it’s the fire brigade,they get furious,” says a staffer.

The firemen feel that any number that ends with 101 or has 101 in it somehow gets diverted to the fire control due to which they are getting thousands of calls a day.

“It’s like harassment. We will go mad,” says another.

“Most of the wrong calls are made during daytime. After 11 or so in the night,the frequency decreases,” he adds.

They say these calls hamper genuine callers who hit engaged lines or get their call diverted to the exchange as the lines are kept busy.

“The public may think the fire brigade is not attending to genuine calls,” a fire brigade staff says,adding that most of their time goes waste answering wrong calls.

Then there are also some strange calls from landlines,he says. For instance a woman caller saying: “Mujhe bahut yaad aa rahi hai aap ki” (I am thinking of you a lot) or “aap khaana kaaya” (have you had food?). One caller even asked,“is it the World Trade Center?”

In some cases there was just mumbling in the background,with no one speaking on the phone. “MTNL officials have come and checked the problem,but the problem persists,” a fireman who did not wish to be named,says.

With monsoon approaching,the fire control staff are bracing for the busiest time of the year when they get the maximum distress calls.

Chief Fire Officer P D Kargupikar said he is not aware of the problem. MTNL executive director J Gopal also said he knew nothing of the problem.

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