Just one number: 112

Somehow, this had completely passed me by… but as it might be useful to you in some slightly bizarre set of circumstances, I will pass it on to you.

As of Dec. 15th 2008, dialling 112 in any EU member state will connect you to the emergency services.

This should work from any land-line or mobile handset*. In December 2007, the UK telecomms regulator Ofcom gave service providers notice that, as of September 2008, UK VOIP users should be offered the same facility.

I don’t remember this ever being publicised in the UK – though I think we’re still suffering from the confusion over the piecemeal regional implementation of the SNEN (Single Non-Emergency Number – 101). That seemed like a great idea to me, much like the Dutch scheme of having a “local information number” prefix. I can’t track down the details of the Dutch scheme just now, but the idea was that if you dialled any area code plus a consistent, short suffix (like, as it might be, *17) you would get a local information service for that area. Neat.

Incidentally, isn’t it ironic that the pan-EU 112 number has been introduced in the era of push-button, tone dialling. Wouldn’t 112 have been a bit more convenient, in olden days, than 999? It always struck me as strange that, in an emergency, we were expected to dial the second-slowest number on the phone… three times. Only 000 would have been slower, but at least it would have had the advantage of being less fiddly to find if you couldn’t the dial and were having to do it by touch.

*The laws of physics still apply. Apparently just after the 7/7 bombings, an email went round saying that if you dialled 112 on your mobile while on the Tube, it would connect you to the emergency services via a satellite link. Telecomms operators had to correct this impression and point out that, even if your handset could talk to satellites, if you’re underground and can’t see any signal strength bars, your phone will not connect you to the emergency services no matter what number you dial.


3 thoughts on “Just one number: 112

  1. Germany had 110 (Police) and 112 (Fire Dept) for a very long time. In the very early days the number for the police was 111 (fastest rotary dialing), but they changed this, since in those days a incidental tap on the hook would be interpreted by the switch as a “1”. Thus it happened often that people would call the emergency number inadvertently.

  2. Robin Wilton says:

    heh heh heh… excellent. So the old habit of jiggling the hook up and down half a dozen times, when you got cut off in mid call, must have been really popular! ;^)

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