Inappropriate or accidental use of the 999 number could cost lives.
The warning comes from Police as far too many people are still dialling 999 when they should be using the non-emergency 101 number.
The risk is that hard-pressed Control Room operators – who field an incredible 450,000 calls a year - are tied up on non-urgent calls when they could be deploying officers to a real emergency.
Common examples include callers asking for the number of other agencies – such as local authorities, RSPCA, or passport services - which they could easily have researched on the internet.
Some dial the free 999 number instead of standard cost 101, simply because they are not prepared to wait for an answer or are short of phone credit.
There are repeated cases where mobile or hands free telephones are given to babies and toddlers to play with and they dial 999 despite the phone being locked, which is a safety feature.
Last year police dealt with nearly 7,500 hoax or repeat calls – many of which came from those with mental health, behaviour or language difficulties which are harder to mitigate against.
Mr Humberstone said: “The public can help us mitigate against this by thinking twice about their own use of the 999 service and reminding their children about the dangers of making spurious calls, particularly during the summer holidays. Since July there have been 509 hoax calls.
“I want to make it clear we will not hesitate to take action against hoaxers who should know better and they can expect a substantial fine or even imprisonment for their selfish and life-threatening actions.”
Residents are reminded 999 should only be used when:
-There is a danger to life or a risk of injury being caused imminently. Examples include serious road accidents, assaults or serious disorders.
-A crime is in progress. Examples include assault, burglary, and theft or if an offender is still on scene, or has just left the scene.
-Police attendance is required immediately such as to prevent a breach of peace, someone acting suspiciously or someone who is about to commit an offence.
The 101 number should be used for all other enquires.