Callers dialling 000 seeking their local state emergency service (SES) will be forwarded by operators to a recorded message from today, according to the Australian Communications Authority (ACA).
The ACA said that the recorded announcement advises callers on how to contact the SES in their state or territory.
“If 000 operators can deal with callers who want to contact the SES by forwarding them quickly to a recorded announcement, it will allow them to focus on callers facing life-threatening or time-critical emergencies,” said Dr Bob Horton, ACA acting chairman.
According to a Telstra spokesperson, previous 000 callers seeking the SES were forwarded onto directory assistance.
ACA made the recommendation to use a recorded announcement in a report on Telstra's handling of 000 calls on 3 December when a 'once in 100 year' storm hit Melbourne.
According to the ACA, many 000 calls during the storm were from people trying to contact the SES for help in dealing with water damage.
“Although these callers faced very real problems, they were not life-threatening or time-critical emergencies,” Horton said.
A spokesperson for the Victorian state emergency service said, "People default to 000 for anything urgent."
"000 is there to deal with emergencies requiring police, ambulance and fire assistance," he said.
According to Daryl Williams, Federal Minister for Communications, IT and the Arts, the ACA had provided a further recommendation that the SES adopt a national contact number.
Telstra already has a four-second recorded warning/announcement in place for all 000 diallers in an attempt to crack down on prank and accidental calls.