The message that circulated via WhatsApp yesterday informing residents that emergency lines were down.
Durban - In the event of an emergency and when contact lines are down, residents can dial 112 from their cellphone and still get the assistance required.

This is according to Robert McKenzie, KwaZulu-Natal Emergency Medical Services spokesperson, who was responding to reports that Telkom lines to Durban’s city emergency numbers - 0313610000 and 10111 - were down.

Social media was a flurry of activity yesterday when messages circulated claiming that the numbers were not in use.

A message that circulated via WhatsApp gave two alternative contact numbers for emergencies and a third for metro fire-related calls.

McKenzie explained that in the event of an emergency, residents could dial 112 from their cellphones and their service provider was equipped to refer the call for the necessary emergency services to be dispatched.

“The resident will give information about the emergency, including their name and area that they live in. The call centre agent will then refer the call to the necessary emergency unit. The caller will not even know the difference,” he said.

McKenzie said although he was unaware of the lines not working yesterday, once they were reliably informed that emergency lines were down, they immediately contacted the cellphone network providers’ emergency call centre and informed them of the alternate contact numbers for emergency services.

He added that when a resident called 112, they needed to give their full name, exact location and provide directions to where they were so help could be dispatched as soon as possible.

McKenzie said their emergency call centres across the province dealt with thousands of calls on a daily basis.

“Some calls are for directions to nearby clinics or residents wanting to find out if their condition requires medical intervention. We also deal with our fair share of hoax calls,” he said.

Nicky Burke, of Berea SAPS Community Police Forum (CPF), said although the lines were down, she appreciated that alternative numbers were given to residents.

“Information was shared and different numbers were given out so there was a back-up plan. I have found that sometimes when you dial 0313610000, the call gets cut before it is even connected. So an alternative definitely helped. Residents were also advised of the problem,” said Burke.

Malcolm Naidoo, of Bellair CPF, said the matter was concerning.

“The concern for us is that generally the individual stations do not have the capacity to manage the calls, with most stations being understaffed.

“The officers who answer calls at the station are not trained (equipped) in human relations and proper etiquette when it comes to answering calls in cases of emergencies,” he said.

Naidoo felt that a public emergency contact line should have at least two back-up systems.

“If any organisation has to attack us as a nation and they attack such emergency lines, what recourse does the public have?” he asked.

Fawzia Peer, eThekwini Municipality’s deputy mayor, and also chairperson of the eThekwini security and disaster management unit, said in the event that emergency lines were down throughout the city, calls were rerouted to the call centre in Gillitts.

Peer said the unit was the custodian of emergency call centres.

“When the unit was alerted to the problem at around 6am, our unit contacted various radio stations and informed residents of the alternative numbers that can be contacted until the lines were up and running again,” she said.

Messages were further circulated by various WhatsApp community neighbourhood watch groups.

Mandla Ntsele, of eThekwini Municipality’s communications unit, confirmed that the lines were affected.

“Telkom technicians are working on the matter.

“Gillitts fire station is taking calls and staff from our call centre are managing the calls,” he said.

Police confirmed that the emergency line was down and calls on the alternative numbers provided were being answered in Gillitts. They said the problem was being addressed.

Daily News