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U.K. fire brigade attributes rise in handcuff-related emergency calls to Fifty Shades of Grey

The handcuffs of inmates are seen during a play at a public theatre in Lima, June 20, 2012. About 20 young inmates of Ancon prison put on stage their own theatrical script, based on their testimonies in jail, outside prison after four months of rehearsal. The event, organized by prison authorities, aims to help them reintegrate into society when they get released in future.

ENRIQUE CASTRO-MENDIVIL/REUTERS

Ladies and gentlemen, if reading Fifty Shades of Grey has made you curious about bondage and discipline, the London Fire Brigade would like you to keep this in mind:

When using handcuffs, always keep the keys handy.

This unusual tip was issued Monday by firefighters in the British capital, who say that in the last three years they have had to deal with an increase in incidents that could have easily been avoided, such as:

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• 79 incidents involving people trapped in handcuffs.

• Nine instances of men with rings stuck on their penises.

• Four incidents where people had their hands stuck in blenders.

• An adult stuck in a child's toy car.

The London Fire Brigade quoted one Third Officer Dave Brown as saying: "I don't know whether it's the Fifty Shades effect, but the number of incidents involving items like handcuffs seems to have gone up. I'm sure most people will be Fifty Shades of red by the time our crews arrive to free them."

Erotic literature seems not to have had the same impact on this side of the Atlantic. A spokesman for the Toronto Fire Services, Captain Adrian Ratushniak, said his department has dealt with its share of people stuck in objects -- for example children entangled in bicycle chains or trapped in drains -- but hasn't noticed an increase in such incidents.

Emergency responders in Canada have in the past complained about getting too many non-emergency calls. Last year, Edmonton Police Service launched an awareness campaign because 40 per cent of calls to the 911 service were not urgent, for example people asking for tax information or for tips on how to cook a turkey. Similarly, in southern Ontario, the Chatham-Kent police, near Windsor, releases in December a list of top silly calls of the year (the 2012 winner asked police to defuse a family dispute between a father and an adult son over dental hygiene.)

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The incidents cited by the London Fire Brigade were however genuine problems – except they could have been avoided with some common sense. The brigade said it had to deal with more than 1,300 such calls since 2010. With each costing £290, the total bill came to £377,000, or more than half a million Canadian dollars.

So the London firefighters offered the following safety reminders:

• "If the ring doesn't fit, don't force it on. As well as being painful, you could end up wasting emergency service time if you have to call us out."

• If you use handcuffs, always keep the keys handy.

• Fingers and electrical appliances don't mix, especially those with blades.

• If it doesn't look safe, it probably isn't.

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