Emergency telephone number

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(Redirected from Emergency service number)

Many countries' public telephone networks have a single emergency telephone number, sometimes known as the universal emergency telephone number or occasionally the emergency services number, that allows a caller to contact local emergency services for assistance. The emergency telephone number differs from country to country (although 112 works in all EU countries). It is typically a three-digit number (though not always), so that it can be easily remembered and dialled quickly. Some countries have a different emergency number for each of the different emergency services, these often differ only by the last digit.


Use of emergency numbers

The number is intended to be used only in an emergency.

For routine and non-urgent enquiries one should use the ordinary telephone numbers for the particular emergency service. These are normally listed in the local telephone directory. In the United Kingdom, for example, the number 0845 46 47 can also be dialled for NHS Direct, a non-emergency medical service. Routine and non-urgent calls as well as hoax or crank calls to emergency services numbers waste the time of both dispatchers and emergency responders and can endanger lives. False reports of emergencies are often prosecuted as crimes. However, if you need to call for help, the emergency services numbers are there to help you.

In the NANP (mainly the United States), 3-1-1 is the new urgent telephone number, that can be used to contact the police and other services to report minor incidents and historic crime that does not endanger life, to avoid overloading 9-1-1. Some cities also use 3-1-1 for contacting other municipal government services, or to report situations like power outages.

In the countries of the European Union the standard emergency number is 112 - this can be dialled anywhere in the EU to reach the local emergency services. 112 is usually used in addition to the country's traditional standard number(s).

There is no world common emergency number.

Configuration and operation

The emergency telephone number is a special case in the country's telephone number plan. In the past, calls to the emergency telephone number were often routed over special dedicated circuits, though with the advent of electronic exchanges these calls are now often mixed with ordinary telephone traffic, but may be able to access circuits that other traffic cannot. Often the system is set up so that once a call is made to an emergency telephone number, it must be answered. Should the caller abandon the call, the line may still be held until the emergency service answers and releases the call.

An emergency telephone number call may be answered by either a telephone operator or an emergency service dispatcher. Depending on the system used:

  • if the operator answers, the caller may be asked what service is required, police, fire, or ambulance (or medical), and the call extended to that services' emergency dispatcher, OR
  • if the emergency service dispatcher answers, the caller may be asked the nature of their emergency.

This approach rapidly identifies what emergency services such as firefighters, police, ambulance, paramedics or emergency medical services are required. In some emergencies, more than one service may be required. If this is the case, one should ask for the most urgently needed service first and explain to the dispatcher that other services are also needed. Generally one emergency service can call on each of the other services to assist them.

Generally it is best to allow the emergency dispatcher to control the call, as they are specially trained to do so. The emergency dispatcher may find it necessary to give urgent advice in life-threatening situations. Some dispatchers have special training in telling people how to perform first aid or even cardiopulmonary resuscitation.

In many parts of the world, an emergency service can identify the telephone number that a call has been placed from. This is normally done using the system that the telephone company uses to bill calls, rather than Caller ID. This means that emergency services can identify even unlisted telephone numbers. For an individual fixed landline telephone, the callers number can often be associated with the caller's address and therefore their location. However, with mobile phones and business telephones, the address may be a mailing address rather than the caller's location. The latest "enhanced" systems, such as Enhanced 911, are able to provide the physical location of mobile telephones. This is often specifically mandated in a country's legislation.

Emergency numbers by region

There is no world common emercency number.

used in Austria, Belgium, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, United Kingdom (sources European Radiocommunications Office (http://www.ero.dk/documentation/docs/doc98/official/Word/ECTRAREP48380.DOC), European Union (http://europa.eu.int/comm/environment/civil/prote/112/112_implementation_en.htm))

History of emergency services numbers

The first emergency number system to be deployed was in London, United Kingdom on June 30, 1937. When 999 was dialled, a buzzer sounded and a red light flashed in the exchange to attract an operator's attention. It was gradually extended to cover the entire country, but it was not until the late 1960s that the facility was available from every telephone.

In the days of loop disconnect dialing, attention was devoted to making the numbers difficult to dial accidentally by making them involve long sequences of pulses, such as with the UK 999 emergency number. This contrasts to modern times, where repeated sequences of numbers are easily dialled on mobile phones, particularly as mobile phones will dial an emergency number while the keypad is locked or even without a SIM card. Some people in the UK have reported accidentally dialling 112 by loop-disconnect while working on extension telephone wiring, and point to this as an adverse side effect of introducing the European number alongside the venerable 999.

The first North American emergency number was the 999 system deployed in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada in 1959. The first US 911 emergency phone system was set up in Alabama in 1968, but it was not in use everywhere until the 1970s. To standardize the number across most of the NANP, Canada switched to using 911 as its emergency number in 1972. (Some Caribbean islands use 999.)

In France, in 1928, telephone operators had to connect the calls for emergency reasons even when the phone service was closed. In 1929, an automatic connection system is set up, initially for less than 10,000 people in Paris, allowing them to dial 18 to reach the fire brigade. The service was not widespread until the 1970s.

The CEPT recommended the use of 112 in 1972. The European Union subsequently adopted the 112 number as a standard on 29 July, 1991. It is now a valid emergency number throughout EU countries and in many other CEPT countries. It sometimes works in parallel with other emergency numbers in countries such as Britain and Ireland.

Emergency numbers and mobile/wireless/cellular telephones

The GSM mobile phone standard includes 112 as an emergency number, no matter what other local emergency number are applicable. This is valuable for foreign travellers, who may not know a local one.

On GSM-networked phones, dialling 112 can offer an advantage even when the another number is known: often even the national emergency number will be unreachable if the phone's subscribed home network is out of range, but 112 will produce connection via any in-range standard GSM network. For example, a mobile phone user in Australia dialling that country's national emergency number, 000 on an Optus GSM mobile phone where a Telstra is the only GSM network available, because the phone is not programmed to recognize 000 as justifying using any other network; dialling 112, on the other hand, authorizes the phone to search for any available network, and the call will completed via Telstra.

Some GSM networks (e.g. in Belgium, Spain, UK, Liechtenstein) are reported to connect emergency calls only from phones with a valid account on their network, e.g. customers and roamers only. Some GSM networks will not accept emergency calls from phones without a SIM card, or a SIM card without credit.

In the United States, the FCC requires networks to route every mobile-phone 911 call to an emergency service call center, including phones that have never had service, or whose service has lapsed. (As a result, there are programs that provide donated used mobile phones to victims of domestic violence and others especially likely to need emergency services.)

Mobile phones generate additional problems for emergency operators, as many phones will allow emergency numbers to be dialled even while the keypad is locked. Since mobile phones are typically carried in pockets and small bags, the keys can easily be depressed accidentally, leading to unintended calls.

See also

External links

fi:Hätänumero fr:Numéro d'appel d'urgence it:Numeri telefonici di emergenza nl:Alarmnummer


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