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The Victorian government has launched a new campaign – ‘Save lives. Save 000 for emergencies’.

The campaign aims to reduce the number of non-emergency calls made for ambulances, freeing up paramedics to respond to genuine time-critical, life-threatening situations.

BehaviourWorks (BWA) was closely involved in the project, bringing together a range of relevant stakeholders and reviewing the evidence connected to behaviours around calling 000.

Our callers are standing by

Calls to 000 are increasing faster than the population is growing. In 2015/16, while Victoria’s population grew by 1.7 per cent, requests for ambulances grew by 5.7 per cent. Many of these calls are genuine, of course, but it’s the non-emergency calls the campaign is targeting.

While some of the more bizarre calls seemed harmless or even funny (like worried calls to say the neighbour is snoring), the sheer volume of these calls is a real problem – every diverted call is taking up the time of the 000 call centre.

The central message

Victoria’s Better Health Channel website lists a range of immediate and life-threatening symptoms that constitute an emergency, such as extreme pain, numbness, burns, bleeding, serious accidents and unconsciousness.

So, if people are in doubt, they should call 000. If the paramedic they speak to decides it’s not a health emergency, they’ll be referred elsewhere. And if people know it’s not an emergency, they shouldn’t call 000 at all.

BWA gets on board

After conducting a literature and practice review to see how other governments around the world had dealt with the issue, BWA convened and facilitated a stakeholder forum, bringing together key groups including Ambulance Victoria, The Victorian Department of Health and the Emergency Services Telecommunications Authority, marketing firms and behavioural experts.

The forum agreed the best way forward was to talk about the importance of Ambulance Victoria, it’s role in keeping Victorians safe and a broader message about the suite of services available. Rather than a shock and awe style, it’s about shifting the social norm from ‘is there whenever you feel like calling’ to ‘only use this in an emergency’.

Next steps

BehaviourWorks is also involved in the monitoring and evaluation of the campaign, tracking its progress and seeing if and how it changes the way we use the 000 service. We look forward to sharing the results when they are available.

The campaign

Produced by The Shannon Company, the campaign uses a very personal and heart-warming story to illustrate why correct 000 behaviours are so important.