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Boy's call about fatal fire dismissed as 'prank'

Boy's call about fatal fire dismissed as 'prank'

Published: 05 Mar 2012 11:37 GMT+01:00
Updated: 05 Mar 2012 11:37 GMT+01:00

When 12-year-old Oscar rang the emergency services to alert them of a fire which ended up killing a 5-year-old girl, he was told by operators to stop making prank calls.

Oscar and a young friend were standing outside the apartment building in Mjölby, southern Sweden, on Saturday when they noticed flames and black smoke billowing from the building.

The boy immediately called 112, the emergency service hotline in Sweden, to alert authorities of the fire.

“They didn’t believe us and told us we should stop. They thought we were prank calling,” the boy told daily Aftonbladet.

However, Oscar made another call a few minutes later, and allegedly was answered by someone else, who took the call seriously.

Norrköping’s SOS Alarm spokesperson has refused to comment on the event.

Stefan Rylander of the Mjölby fire services said that the fire truck was deployed after receiving an emergency call at 3.42pm, and that they were on the scene in three and a half minutes, wrote the paper.

The fire claimed the life of a 5-year-old, who tried to hide under a bed as the flames spread throughout the building. She was pronounced dead by police at 5.44pm.

An investigation was launched, after officials were concerned with the speed at which the fire spread. Foul play has not been ruled out, and officials are also questioning whether the structure of the building itself may be to blame.

The extensive use of plastic foam, used for insulation, may have been a reason for the speed in which the fire engulfed the apartment building.

“While this type of foam has been around for a long time, during the last ten-fifteen years it’s been used in a different way, in larger quantities and in places where it is exposed. Foam can, in some situations, pose fire problems,” said Mattias Strömgren of the Swedish civil contingencies agency to Dagens Nyheter.

Oliver Gee (oliver.gee@thelocal.se)

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Your comments about this article

15:31 March 5, 2012 by Reason abd Realism
SOS should always send a fire truck immediately, and simply charge the family a huge fine (based on the phone number of the mobile, and after verifying that the boy's voice matches the recording they have) IF it calls out to be a hoax.

Fire and smoke spread quickly. Horrible to think that the 5 year old gril might have been saved if there had been no delay in the response.
15:38 March 5, 2012 by Snood
The police pronounced the girl dead?? um... surely only a doctor can do this? or is this yet another power the police in Sweden have been granted without qualification?

I should note i do not with to make light of the situation and the poor girl and her family, very sad news.
16:10 March 5, 2012 by Tanskalainen
Who'd believe a kid named Oscar?
16:12 March 5, 2012 by foxpur
Snood, that is a interesting point. I live in Stockholm so I suppose I should find out....
16:45 March 5, 2012 by Abe L
#1 pretty much has it right, these are very simple matters.

Further, I hope that the person who ignored the first call and told the helpful kid off gets prosecuted for first degree manslaughter.
18:22 March 5, 2012 by spo10
so sad. i hope they'll fire that person who ignored the child's call.
19:59 March 5, 2012 by Beavis
pfff its Sweden worst thing that will happen is the SOS alarm person gets put on a course..
20:42 March 5, 2012 by Antonito
Hey Tanskalainen (comment 3):

There are places, time and situations in which you can be funny, sarcastic, etc. Try to focus in the subject and use the common sense.

Oscar, the kid, did the right thing. He did not spend time calling his friends or taking pictures. You see. He used the common sense in the right place, time and situation..... Learn!.
22:19 March 5, 2012 by BillyB
In the UK there is a problem with a lot of time wasted going on false call outs as they have to attend all emergencies, whilst a waste of resources its surely preferable to a tragedy such as this, which is far too common here.

Terrible waste of life, rest in peace little girl.
00:14 March 6, 2012 by BackpackerKev
Comment: Serious issues need to be addressed in this case, the SoS person in question will not be reprimanded or any form of punishment, and they will put his or her negligence down to improper training which is an utter pisstake tbh. the fact he sais "They" and operators indicates more than one idiot is to blame.

Either you react on every call, and have procedures in place for fake callers, or you just scrap the whole sos system and let people fend for themselves, its not the place of the Sos caller to be judge and jury of what call is real or fake but the law to for punishing those who waste sos time.
01:32 March 6, 2012 by Max Reaver
@BackpackerKev

You said it! I'm tired of hearing people complaining how few idiots abuse the SOS system by calling ambulances and use them as taxis. Sweden needs to build more robust infrastructure system that bust the cheaters, just like good computer programs. We need proper procedures for fake callers, I say water prison and meat c#ck sandwich like in Guantanamo!

PS. My last sentence about water prison and sandwich is of course a joke. Don't take offence on that too.
05:15 March 6, 2012 by Grokh
whats wrong with people that work as a emergency call operator in this country ?

they dont send ambulances, they dont warn the police, when people are dying they say its nothing, and when there is fire its a prank...
09:37 March 6, 2012 by foxpur
@Grokh,

Let's put SOME perspective here...

YES: There are some issues that have been very costly.

NO: It is not usually the case.

I have had to go to the hospital several time, I had a near-fatal Stroke and I was in a difficult area to get to when it happened. But at no time have I had problems with SOS getting me to the hospital.
10:53 March 6, 2012 by engagebrain
was the 5 year old alone in the flat ?
12:16 March 6, 2012 by pjtaipale
"SOS should always send a fire truck immediately, and simply charge the family a huge fine (based on the phone number of the mobile, and after verifying that the boy's voice matches the recording they have) IF it calls out to be a hoax."

If there is no legal basis for charging a huge fine, then they cannot do it. So they cannot do this. No fault of fire brigade or SOS service, but the lawmakers.

(Besides, charging a fine is pretty irrelevant if you cannot enforce the collection, which is a pretty likely outcome: the caller may be a minor, or if grown up, is probably without a penny, at least officially.)
18:25 March 6, 2012 by Leyarah
This is horrifying... I live in Sweden and have asthma... I think I'll call a taxi before an ambulance if I ever need to go to the hospital :-)

I used to work 999 in the UK years ago, there is no way in hell we would not have got someone out.

If we thought a call was a prank it still got put through to the police, we were taught that in our training... if in doubt get the police to deal with it. Someone sitting in an office is not in a position to be able to decide whether something is a real emergency or not... that's the job of the police/fire service not someone answering a phone.

I hope the person who dismissed this call gets dismissed from their job!!!!
22:32 March 6, 2012 by Reason abd Realism
@ pjtaipale

Decades ago I was at a University Residence party and some dork pulled a fire alarm. The residence had to pay an 8000 SEK penalty, which would be double that amount in today's terms.

If they can fine you for parking illegally they can also fine you if your son or daughter called a fire truck as a joke. Collection can be done at tax time, and/or the fine must be payed before you can renew your driver's license. The one crime that Sweden does not forgive is tax evasion, and driving offences are a close 2nd. Only a small fraction of people are truly penniless.

In Finland they adjust your speeding ticket amount based on your salary, and some traffic penalties in Sweden are also based on people's salary. The fine system for calling a fire truck for a joke could also be adjusted to the family income.

Obviously no solution is perfect, but if a fine system reduces the problem by 90%, then it is worth it. So it is not worth pointing out the odd situation of the odd person who cannot pay anything as a reason not to try to improve the system.

If there is no fine system in place now for calling for a fire truck as a joke, then Sweden is behind the rest of the civilized world in that regard, and should implement a fine system immediately.
17:34 March 9, 2012 by skylarkpilot
The real point of the story is that a child called the emergency services and was ignored.

Fines and penalties for prank calls are largely irrelevant to this particular story.

Coming from a background in the British emergency services, I would have been severely disciplined or possibly faced criminal charges if I had ignored such a call and a person had potentially died as a result.

From the tone of the reporting in this story, it seems that the authorities here don't care very much in this case. Was the child an immigrant by any chance ?
19:21 March 9, 2012 by Reason abd Realism
@ skylarkpilot

Disagree that fines are irrelevant, for the simple reason that the main motivation (conscious or subconscious) of an SOS employee for ignore a call is that the effort and expense of sending out a fire truck will be a waste of time and money if it was a hoax.

By erradicating 90% of hoaxes through a fine system, the SOS person does not have to worry about making the wrong judgement about whether a particular call is a hoax or not. With the child's voice and phone number, a fine will be paid if it is a hoax. Send the fire truck and sort out the fines later if it turns out to have been a hoax.

Prosecution of the SOS person will not solve the problem of hoaxes, so something must be done to minimize the likelihood of hoaxes (which is hopefully low to begin with).
08:53 March 10, 2012 by Borilla
Two points:

(1) Absolutely correct about fining the person(family) for a false alarm.

(2) The corollary is that operators answering at the ambulance/fire/police emergency numbers don't get to decide which call is or is not a hoax. They should be required to assume that each call is a genuine emergency. How many times have we seen the reports of SOS, etc. failing to respond and a death or serious injury resulting? One would suspect that the local governing authority is telling them that the responses are too expensive and to cut them back. Let the pranksters pay but don't kill people to save money.
17:45 March 29, 2012 by ovep
SOS Alarms View on the event (in Swedish):

http://www.sosalarm.se/sv/Nyheter-och-Media/Pressmeddelanden/Pressmeddelanden/Kommentar-till-uppgifterna-om-brand-i-Mjolby/

Google translate Swedish to English (not perfect but understandable)

Comments on the information on fire in Mjölby

It has been in the media revealed details of SOS Alarm on fire in Mjölby on Saturday where a five-year girl was killed.

According to Aftonbladet, called a 12-year-old boy to the emergency alarm to alert the fire but was according to himself is not believed by SOS operator who was told the boy to stop making prank calls.

This information is not correct. According to SOS Alarm call logs came the boy's call in at 16:05, it's about 23 minutes after the first alarm about the same incident was received at SOS Alarm. The operator asked the boy if he saw some fire trucks on site, which he confirmed that he did. The call ends when one notes that the fire was already handled.

The first rescue were in place just before 15:47. A total of six ambulances and rescue services from three stations.

Contact:

SOS Alarm's main spokesman, Tel: 08-205307
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