'000' time delay targets efficiencies

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People dialling 000 for emergency assistance will now be met with a four-second recorded warning -- the result of a new initiative designed to reduce the number of non-genuine calls.

Dr Bob Horton, acting chairman at regulator Australian Communications Authority (ACA), said that 000 callers would now hear a four-second recorded announcement telling them they had dialled 000. This would give them time to hang up if they had called the number by mistake.

The recorded announcement will say, 'You have dialled emergency triple zero. Your call is being connected'.

According to Horton, the recorded announcement was introduced to reassure callers that their call was successful and was being connected.

“Callers will hear the recorded announcement instead of a ring tone and will know immediately that they have been connected to 000,” he said.

“If someone calls 000 by mistake, it is much better that they hang up before getting through to the operator and have to apologise for their error," he said. “The aim of this initiative is to improve the efficiency of the emergency call service in connecting callers to the requested emergency service.”

Horton said that during 2002-03 a total of 65 percent, or 7,338,782 of the 11,332,701 calls to 000, were non-genuine calls.

Ten percent of non-genuine calls were aborted by the caller before Telstra answered the call, and 30 percent were aborted by the caller after being answered by Telstra, Horton said.

The new initiative is to be trialled for a month, with the ACA then measuring its effectiveness in order to decide whether to adopt the new approach permanently.

The recorded-announcement is a joint initiative between the ACA, Telstra and emergency services organisations.

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