Emergency services callouts fall by a third

Emergency services callouts in the southern region have decreased by up to a third since the Covid-19 lockdown began more than two weeks ago.

In Otago and Southland, Fire and Emergency New Zealand (Fenz) has recorded 138 callouts during the lockdown so far — down 33.65% from the 208 recorded during the same time in 2019.

Nationwide, the decrease has been 7.5%.

The vast majority of the incidents were recorded in Dunedin, Queenstown and Invercargill.

Fenz regional manager Mike Grant said it was likely the decrease was because more people were staying home and complying with government instructions.

"However, it’s important people are still vigilant during the lockdown and stay fire safe — both in the home and outdoors."

He recommended residents check their smoke alarms and ensure their household had an escape plan in case of an emergency.

"The kitchen is the most common place for fires. Don’t leave cooking unattended.

"Check your new home work spaces and make sure multi-plugs are not overloaded — one plug per socket.

"Lastly, if you are thinking about burning rubbish or garden waste, please hold off during the Covid-19 lockdown.

"Even if the fire remains under control, the smoke can generate 111 calls from the public and mean firefighters need to leave their bubble unnecessarily."

The New Zealand Police did not provide data, but said there had been a "positive decrease across the board" in terms of callouts to burglaries, general theft, serious assaults and road-policing incidents since the lockdown began.

However, a police spokeswoman said family harm incidents had increased.

"Police will continue to prioritise family harm calls and we will attend.

"Right now, we urge people to look out for each other. If you suspect something is not right, call police."

Senior Sergeant Craig Dinnissen, of Dunedin, said he had noticed a "marked decrease" in callouts for police in the city.

As a result, police were now able to spend more time on prevention activities and Covid-19-related jobs, he said.

St John coastal Otago territory manager Doug Third said there had been a small reduction in emergency callouts, particularly to car crashes, in Otago and Southland since the lockdown began.

However, ambulance officers remained just as busy because job cycles were taking longer in the Covid-19 setting.

"Ambulance officers now routinely wear personal protective equipment to all jobs, creating longer preparation time and hygiene control along with additional patient questions and assessment."

He asked the public to call 111 only when it was a real emergency, and be sure to tell the call-taker if the patient, or anyone else at the address, was in self-isolation or had been exposed to a person who might have Covid-19.

"This will help our ambulance crews make the best decisions about infectious disease precautions and equipment."

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