112 – The Phone Number that Saves Lives

Dec 21, 2016 | News

  • Less than half of EU-citizens know that 112 can be dialled in case of emergency anywhere in Europe.
  • Emergency calls are not located accurately enough. This may result in a considerable loss of time and have disastrous effects when a fire occurs.
  • Public authorities are not able to efficiently inform the citizens about ongoing fires or upcoming threats.

These are the alarming facts that the European Emergency Number Association (EENA) shared in the “Case for a Fire Safety Strategy“. We interviewed Benoit Vivier to learn more about the 112 number and EENA’s work.

Can you give us a bit of history about the 112 number, how it came about and evolved until now?

112 was established as the European emergency number by a decision from the Council of the European Union. In the context of the Schengen agreement and the opening of the intra-EU borders, it was necessary to make sure that citizens visiting other countries of the European Union would have only one number to remember for any kind of emergency, anywhere in the EU. In 2002 and 2009, new legislation improved the functioning of the European emergency number by mandating the provision of caller location to the emergency services and making sure that deaf and hard-of-hearing people have an efficient way of contacting the emergency services. The role of the Member States in promoting the European emergency number was also highlighted throughout the years.

What is the EU currently doing for the 112 number? What could be done?

A lot more could be done to ensure an efficient functioning of 112. First, more than half of the EU-citizens don’t know this potentially life-saving number. Caller location is also problematic, as the accuracy of the location information that emergency services receive is 2km (up to 30km in rural areas). It is not normal that still in 2016, a caller in distress cannot benefit from the GNSS functionalities of his/her smartphone. More should also be done in ensuring that the legislative provisions on disabled people are correctly implemented: in many countries, means of accessibility to deaf people are insufficient or inexistent. Finally, there should also be a way for emergency services to contact directly the population in order to alert them of ongoing crises or upcoming threats.

What have been the key moments and achievements for EENA in 2016 and what do you hope to achieve in 2017?

The key achievement of EENA in 2016 has been the development of Advanced Mobile Location (AML). This system improves considerably the caller location by sending accurate information based on GNSS and Wifi to emergency services. In June this year, Google updated all the Android smartphones in the world with this functionality. It has now to be activated country per country whenever the emergency services are ready to receive this information. Four countries have deployed AML and many lives have already been saved thanks to this innovation (see more information about AML here). In 2017, we hope that more countries will deploy AML. 2017 will also be crucial as new rules on 112 will be discussed at the EU-level. I hope that the EU-legislators will take this opportunity to make the EU-citizens safer.