India has decided to adopt `112’ as the national emergency number, similar to `911’ in the US and `999` in the UK, with the inter-ministerial telecom commission giving a go-ahead to the move.
The roll-out of `112’ may see a gradual phase-out of existing emergency numbers like 100 (for police), 101 (fire), 102 (ambulance) and 108 (disaster management), though they will continue to be in operation for at least a year.
The idea of having a single number for all kinds of emergencies has been in the works for a long time and would require the active participation and enabling provisions from states to make it a success. Telecom regulator Trai had suggested the adoption of 112 as the national emergency number in its recommendations submitted to the telecom department in April last year. It had suggested the inclusion of a host of services, beginning with calls meant for police, fire, ambulance, helpline for women, senior citizens and children initially. Other services may be integrated gradually and in a phased manner.
To make the service successful and highly efficient, calls to the emergency number will be prioritized in mobile networks while SMS-based access will also be permitted.
Importantly, the location information and details of the caller will need to be made available to the agencies taking the emergency calls so that swift help can be provided. “The states will need to set up call centers that would also cater to the local languages spoken in their respective region,” an official source said.
Analysts say that implementation of the measure can be a challenge as many of the areas, especially policing, is a state subject. Also, putting in place an adequate infrastructure -like ambulances and requisite number of police personnel -to deal with emergency situations at a quick pace, can be an infrastructure nightmare.
The number 112 was chosen due to a variety of reasons. 100, which is one of the widely known numbers for emergency , was not recommended as it is associated with police and several sections of society, especially women and children, may not wish to dial it. GSM phones have in-built recognition of emergency numbers 112 and 911. Emergency calling encompasses calling even in cases where the phone is locked with a password; or where there is no balance amount left.
Q&A: Everything you need to know about ‘112’, India’s new single number for emergency services
Just like ‘911’ in the US, Indians too will soon be able to dial a single number in emergency situations and avail the services of police, ambulance, or the fire department. The Telecom Commission has accepted TRAI’s recommendation of making ‘112’ as the official all-in-one emergency number in the country and phasing out all the existing emergency numbers within a year of roll out.
1. What is an emergency number?
An emergency number is to help citizens connect to the most important services in any city – be it health, crime, or calamity. Instead of wasting time in asking people for help during crucial conditions, an all-in-one emergency number helps gain those precious minutes following an accident, or save lives if a building catches fire, or even in cases of thefts.
2. How many emergency numbers currently exist in India?
At present, there are different emergency numbers for different purposes in India including- police ‘100’, fire brigade ‘101’, ambulance ‘102’, and Emergency Disaster Management ‘108’. There are also some state-specific helpline numbers for providing assistance to special categories of citizens like Woman in distress – ’181 (Delhi), Missing Children and
Women – 1094 (Delhi), Crime Against Women – 1096 (Delhi), Police Headquarter helpline – 1090 (Uttar Pradesh) etc.
3. What will a single all-in-one emergency number mean?
When ‘112’ is rolled out in the coming months, it would help citizens raise an alarm about distressing situations in a very convenient manner and also make authorities respond promptly. For example, for people like the elderly, a single number would connect them to both the police or the ambulance in unexpected situations. This will also help the senior citizens avoid the pain of remembering multiple numbers respond to untoward incidents in a timely manner.
4. How will the new emergency number work?
All that one needs to do is call ‘112’ and the representative will direct you to the concerned department immediately for help. ‘112’ can be dialled from both mobile phones and landlines. The service will also be made accessible to those SIMs or landlines whose outgoing call facility has been barred or temporarily suspended. Users will also be able to make communication through SMS and the responding system will detect location of the caller and share it with the nearest help center. The service will be operated in call center-like facility and representatives will be able to provide support in Hindi, English, and other local languages.
5. What will happen to the existing emergency numbers?
All the existing emergency numbers, including the state-specific ones will be phased out within a year of implementing the new ‘112’ number. This will be done based on the awareness about the new number.
6. When will the government implement the new emergency number?
Unlike the earlier estimated time of one year, the new number will be rolled out within months.