For the last forty years a growing number of people have holidayed abroad, countries in the world are shrinking faster than you can think. Each country has an emergency phone number that people can dial from their phone netwok in case of an emergency. It was decided in 1991 (although it was recommended by CEPT in 1972) that it would be easier for those traveling abroad if they had a common emergency number alongside the emergency telephone number for their own country. Anyone who needed services such as fire, police, or ambulance urgently could call that number and receive a response, for both residents and non-residents.
In 2002 the ruling was restated as part of the USD, Universal Service Directive, and any further amendments pertaining to it. The single number is 112 and could be called from a fixed or mobile telephone – it could also be used alongside the number for a person’s country of residence. The number 112 is also in use in a number of non-EU countries and at present is used in eighty countries around the world. While the telephone operators or wireless carriers must provide you with the emergency number, services such as Google Voice and ObiHai’s free home phone (free landline phone) need not offer such services, they need to put a disclaimer though.
Why 112 was the chosen number?
The choice of this particular number was three fold
- The number was already in use in some member states, e.g. Italy and Germany
- It was felt that using two different numbers lessened the instance of inadvertently tapping the same number more than required – this often happens with nine nine nine calls from phones with a digital keypads and with mobiles. Remember, this is the reason why Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak could not use his phone for 20 years.
- When only old fashioned telephones where dialing was rotary, using three numbers meant that the phone was locked with a code, for anything other than emergency calls.
Location Enhanced Numbers
A three figure emergency number had been in place in Britain since 1937 and in later in North America with 911. In 2003 an enhanced version called E112 was brought in where the operator could give the services information about the location of the call – similar to the American 911 number The new version of the worldwide emergency number also placed responsibility on the mobile phone companies to give any information they had on where the call was made from, to the emergency services. Find more information in this presentation by Leo Koolen of European Commission.
By the start of 2009 all the countries in the European Union have had to make sure that anyone in the EU using the designated number, would be connected with the emergency services. Prior to that time some countries used only the 112 number, rather than using it alongside their own, national number. Also by 2009 the EU pronounced the 11th of February the European day of 112 – on that day there are yearly events, publicizing the world emergency number and its correct use – that is why the number 112 (11th Feb).
Latest Updates NG112
NG or next generation 112, introduced by EENA, has been put forward for two main reasons:
- Provides a conjoined IP network or public answering points for all the emergency services enabling better cooperation and security for emergency calls
- The NG112 also provides people with more ways to communicate with the emergency services by text message for example or by using a voice over internet protocol system, video and instant messaging. Such services would also be enabled to provide extra health related information. The system means that calls and messages would be safely delivered to the nearest and most applicable public service answering point.