Call me an ambulance!...

Here in the UK, it's well known that the emergency services can be contacted by dialling 999 from a phone; that number came about way back in 1937. In 1991, a new number was proposed, one that could be used across all of Europe, and so the emergency number 112 was born. Fast forward to 2008 and it's now in use, but it seems that few people actually know about it. In fact, I have taught members of the police and fire brigade that didn't know about it! But, it does have some real advantages, find out more after the jump...

The idea about having a single telephone number that allowed a caller to contact the emergency services, irrespective of which country they were in, was a bold step. Language barriers not withstanding, the problem was that someone from the UK would neccessarily know what number to dial if they were in Spain (for example). The 112 telephone number solved that problem, and indeed these days many emergency call centres now speak several languages.

In the UK, emergency operator services are provided by BT, CWCW and Kingston Communication. A caller making a 999 or 112 call is connected to an emergency operator; these operators are not linked with the emergency services and their role is to select the required Emergency Authority Control Room and connect the caller to these operators.

The important thing for us is that whether we make the call using a fixed line, or a mobile phone, our location finds its way to the emergency services. If you dial from a fixed line, the registered address of the calling number is sent; but, if you call from a mobile phone things are a bit different as, by definition, you could be calling from anywhere.

In this case, the emergency services receive caller location information which is based on the network cell you are in when you make the call. Naturally, the accuracy of this system is heavily dependant upon the coverage area of the network cell. In essence the system calculates an area where it is 100% confident of you being, then a smaller area where it's 67% sure and finally it works out your probable pinpoint location.

This location information is needed; if you are incapacitated / unable to speak then the operators have a good idea where you may be; if you can't speak the language of the country you are in, then you can be reasonably sure that they'll know where you are calling from. In fact, silent callers are dealt with slightly differently due to the sheer number of hoax / false calls.

So, the next time you're out on location, make sure that you, and those around you, know about the 112 service - one day it might just save your life.

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