A STAGGERING 50,000 hoax calls will be made to fire and rescue services across the country this year - putting lives of innocent people in danger.
An average call out to an emergency is £1,700 and sick pranksters are costing fire services £230,000 a day - that's £84m a year.
Hoax Calls Awareness Week, an initiative co-ordinated by BT and supported by fire and rescue services, aims to raise awareness of the issue, which delays response time to real emergencies.
The week, from March 24 to 30, targets parents, teachers and children as it is important that everyone realises the seriousness of the offence.
Representatives from BT and the fire and rescue services will be visiting schools across the UK to urge young people to think twice about dialling 999.
West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service attended 1,783 calls last year.
West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service Senior Operations Officer, Craig McIntosh, said: "Unfortunately, and like every other emergency service, we have to deal with a number of malicious calls every year.
"However, our policy to challenge suspicious callers by alerting them to the consequences of making a hoax call has allowed our call handling staff to reduce the number of attendances at false incidents.
"We do in fact, have arrangements in place with service providers to have malicious callers disconnected in certain circumstances.
"We treat every call with the attention of an emergency, however, people's lives are put at risk when resources are directed to false incidents.
"Whilst we are attending these malicious calls we are unavailable to go to the real emergencies.
"This could very well result in injury or even death to those who are in genuine need of a fire appliance and crew."
Hoax calls attended by the service have fallen dramatically from up to 9,000 in the 1990s to 1,873 in 2005.
West Yorkshire firefighters offer five talks a year to every school in the county.
During these sessions with the children, the consequences of hoax calls are explained in detail.
* Making a hoax call is illegal and the penalties for making the call are high - either a £5,000 fine or six months in prison.
* Last year BT answered 28.4m 999 calls - 48% of which were identified as "inappropriate".
* Calls cost around 55p to process - meaning more than £8m is added to the hoax call bill.
* London Fire Brigade has the highest hoax call rate in the UK, attending 9,686 calls a year.
Sick 999 pranksters put lives in danger