HALF of the 30 million 999 calls to the emergency services last year should never have been made.
The staggering tally has been revealed as the Examiner today launches a new campaign to halt the number of hoax and inappropriate calls being made to the police, fire and ambulance services.
Sir Graham Meldrum, Chief Inspector of Fire Services, said: "Children think these calls are harmless fun, but calling out the fire brigade to false alarms is not only dangerous, it is also a massive drain on finances.
"The malicious calls made to fire and rescue services cost an estimated £24m last year."
Adrian Hosford, director of BT social policy, said: "Hoax calls can cost lives as they tie up vital resources and hinder response times to real emergencies.
"We need to educate young people on the real life consequences these calls have and also remind them they are actually breaking the law.
"Hoax calling can carry a maximum penalty of up to three months in prison."
West Yorkshire Fire And Rescue Service is challenging callers who they believe are making a malicious call.
They are also leading the way in getting the mobile phones of people who make hoax calls disconnected.
The new strategy involves close liaison between the fire service and the major mobile phone companies.
All 999 calls are recorded and operators know immediately which phone is calling.
Dave Massey, a spokesman for mobile phone network O2, said: "We help with this problem whenever we can. If mobile phones are used to make hoax calls, we can act quickly to take them off the network and render them useless."