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Emergency telephone 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. It is typically a three-digit number, (though not always), so that it can be easily remembered and dialed quickly. Some countries have a different emergency number for each of the different emergency services, these often differ only by the last digit.

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. 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. If you need to call for help the emergency services numbers are there to help you.

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.

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 indiviual 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 violation of privacy is often specifically mandated in a country's legislation.

Emergency numbers by region:

  • Australasia:
  • Asia: 119 in some parts of Asia
    • India: Police: 100, Fire department - 103
    • Israel: Police: 100, Medical emergency - 101, Fire department - 102
    • Hong Kong : 999
  • Europe
    • Mainland: 112 (also standard on GSM Mobile telephones)
    • Belgium: 112, 100 (medical emergencies and fire department), 101 (police)
    • UK: 999, or 112 (for compatibility with mainland Europe)
    • Italy: Police (and general emergency): 113 - Carabinieri: 112 - Medical emergency: 118 - Fire, disasters: 115
    • Russia: Fire: 01, Police (Militsia) - 02, Medical emergency - 103
  • North America:

See also

999: the first emergency number

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 dialling, attention was devoted to making the numbers difficult to dial accidentally by making them involve long sequences of pulses, such as in the UK 999 emergency number.

History of emergency services numbers

  • first systems were established in the UK via the operator
  • UK 999 system set up in July 1937
  • North American 911 system set up in 1968, but not universal until the 1970s
  • 112 is the international GSM standard emergency number.
  • EU adopted the 112 number as a standard on 29 July 1991.

Additional topics to be covered:

External links

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