The Emergency telephone number reference article from the English Wikipedia on 24-Jul-2004
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Emergency telephone number

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Many countries' public telephone networkss 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 999 itself perhaps has an advantage over the number 911 and 112; it can be dialed extremely easily.

Table of contents
1 Use of emergency numbers
2 Configuration and operation
3 Emergency numbers by region
4 History of emergency services numbers
5 See also
6 External links

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 UK, for example, the number 0845 46 47 can also be dialed 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. 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.

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:

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

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 dialed, 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 dialed on mobile phones, particularly as mobile phones will dial an emergency number while the keypad is locked or even without a SIM card.

The North American 911 emergency phone system was set up in 1968, but was not in widespread use until the 1970s.

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 European Union adopted the 112 number as a standard on 29 July, 1991. It is now a valid emergency number throughout Europe, alongside national emergency numbers in countries such as Britain and Ireland.

The GSM mobile phone standard includes 112 as an emergency number. This applies even if the local emergency number is different. This is convenient for people that travel to other countries and may not know the local emergency number. For example, some people have reported that 112 works on GSM networks in the United States.

See also

External links