GARDAÍ, the Limerick City Fire and Rescue service and members of the Limerick Marine Search and Rescue unit are being called to as many as three hoax river rescue calls every week.
Over the past two months, firefighters, rescue swimmers, search teams and the Irish Coastguard helicopter have been deployed to the River Shannon in response to false alarms.
While no one has been prosecuted over the most recent spate of hoax calls, one senior member of the city’s emergency services said that the caller’s identity is known to them.
“We’ve been getting at least three hoax calls a week over the last two months and while we respond to each alert in the same manner, it gets frustrating when some are hoax calls.
“All we can do is stand down and wait for the next one.”
Reaction to the hoax calls has drawn outage from public representatives, city officials and members of the public.
“This is a disgrace, especially at this time of the year as we need our emergency services on standby for when there are genuine emergencies and people in real distress”, Limerick Fianna Fail TD Niall Collins told the Limerick Post.
”This is a huge waste of a precious life-saving resource. Those responsible for these hoax calls are very ignorant to this fact and need to grow up. Gardaí should investigate these incidents and, if possible, bring charges.
“People in Limerick are very angry when they heard of these disgusting pranks,” Deputy Collins added.
Gardaí say that new technology will help them identify and prosecute hoax callers.
Fellow Limerick TD Tom Neville said that he wouldn’t discourage people from alerting emergency services if they think they saw something at the river as “it is better for an emergency call to be made with good intentions.”
“But deliberate acts of prank or hoax calling emergency services, is something that has to be stamped out. It is a disgrace to think that our first responders, many of whom are volunteers, are being sent to a hoax when a real emergency could unfold elsewhere.
“Hoax calls have the potential to be fatal so they need to be tackled. This is people’s lives we are talking about”, the Fine Gael deputy said.