The Indian government has introduced a common emergency number '112' across the country to help people avail services such as the police, ambulance and fire department.
The proposal for the service, which is similar to the '911' emergency number in the US, has been approved by the inter-ministerial Telecom Commission. The government is looking to roll out the new service later this year, as it phases out all current emergency numbers.
"Telecom Commission has accepted Trai's recommendation on single emergency number 112. It will now be drafted by the Department of Telecom and will require Telecom Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad's approval. It will be rolled out within months rather than a year," a government official was quoted as saying.
Services to be offered under '112'
Currently, there are a number of emergency communication and response services in place in the country. Some of the common national numbers are 100 (police), 101 (fire brigade), 102 (ambulance) and 108 (emergency disaster management). Different states also have separate helpline numbers to provide special assistance like Woman in distress - 181 (Delhi), Missing Children and Women - 1094 (Delhi), Crime Against Women - 1096 (Delhi), and Police Headquarter helpline - 1090 (Uttar Pradesh), among others.
With the introduction of '112' as the national emergency number, the government aims at phasing out all these services within a year, depending on the awareness and popularity of the new service.
People in distress can dial '112' from either their cell phones or landlines, and will be directed immediately to the concerned department for help. The service will be accessible even on devices where outgoing call facilities have been stopped or suspended.
The service will also provide SMS-based access to users, which will provide the systems with location information and details of the caller, making it easier to provide them with assistance from the nearest help centre.
Keeping in mind the diversity of the nation, the service will be operated by representatives speaking Hindi, English and the local language, to help ease communication.
"The states will need to set up call centres, which will also cater to the local languages spoken in their respective region," a government official said.
Emergency number services across the world
A common emergency number service exists in most developed countries. Integrated Emergency Communication & Response System (IECRS) have been implemented by a number of governments in the world, who use a single number to offer nationwide access to emergency services.
One of the most commonly known emergency service is 911 (pronounced nine-one-one), which is used across Canada and the US. Citizens can call 911 for any kind of emergency service they require, ranging from the police, to the fire department to ambulance, hospitals and other health assistance. Civic complaints like a late-night disturbance in the neighbourhood or even a trapped animal are also attended to via the emergency service.
The target response time for every 911 call placed is a maximum of seven minutes. Authorities however do not always manage to meet this target.
In Germany, 112 is broadly used for medical emergencies and fire reports, while 110 is known for police emergency services. 112, in fact happens to be the common emergency for most of the European Union.
In UK, 999 is the official emergency number used to call for urgent assistance. However, callers can also dial 112 for the purpose of emergency services within the region. 999 provides access to four major kinds of emergency services, namely the police, ambulance service, fire brigade and the coastguard. A number of other rescue services are also offered via this facility.
In Australia, 000 is the national emergency number, which is mainly used for police, fire or ambulance services. Australia also offers emergency service facilities on 112 and 106.