The Tokyo Fire Department has announced new measures in dealing with non-emergency calls made to the 119 emergency hotline.
119 is the number used in Japan to call the fire department, but it’s also used to call for ambulances.
Posting on X (formerly known as Twitter), the fire department said it would now hang up on any calls to 119 that it decided were non-urgent.
“119 is the emergency hotline,” it said. “If you call it with inquiries, we may not be able to respond to real emergencies.”
In 2022, the number of calls made to 119 in Tokyo was more than 1 million — the first time it’s been that high since the current counting method was introduced in 2015.
And it’s believed that about 20% of those calls were non-emergencies.
According to the Tokyo Fire Department, people called 119 for a number of non-urgent reasons, including “the light in my room won’t turn off,” “I lost my house keys and need you to do something about it,” and, “My toilet water won’t stop running.”
Until now, operators would listen to all calls made to the emergency number, and only ended the call when the caller was satisfied.
But now, if they decide a call isn’t urgent, operators will suggest the caller contact someone else for help.
And if the caller still wants to talk but the operator can’t help any further, the operator will hang up.
There were also a number of times when an ambulance was sent when it wasn’t needed.
Of the almost 900,000 calls asking for an ambulance, over half of them were for minor injuries.
The Tokyo Fire Department recommended that anyone who isn’t sure if they need emergency services call its inquiry center at #7119 instead, or add the #7119 app to their smartphones.