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Many countries' public telephone networks 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 may differ from country to country. It is typically a three-digit number 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.

Use of emergency numbersEdit

In most areas, the emergency number is intended to be used only in an emergency.

For routine and non-urgent enquiries emergency services generally provide traditional telephone numbers for contact. These are normally listed in the local telephone directory. In the United Kingdom, for example, the number 0845 46 47 can also be dialled for NHS Direct, a non-emergency medical service. Routine and non-urgent calls as well as hoax or prank 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.

In the North American Numbering Plan, 311 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 911. Some cities also use 311 for contacting other municipal government services, or to report situations like power outages.

The telephone number 112 is the international emergency telephone number for GSM mobile phone networks. It does not necessarily work on mobile phone networks based on other technologies. In all European Union countries it is also the emergency telephone number for both mobile and fixed-line telephones.[1]

Emergency numbers and mobile telephones Edit

The GSM mobile phone standard includes 112 as an emergency number, and in countries where 112 is not the standard emergency telephone number, GSM telephone users who make calls to 112 generally have their calls redirected to the local emergency telephone number, if it exists. This is valuable for foreign travelers, who may not know the local emergency number. Most GSM mobile phones can dial 112 calls even when the phone keyboard is locked or the phone is without a SIM card.

Using 112 instead of another emergency number on a GSM phone may be advantageous, since 112 is recognized by all GSM phones as an emergency number. A phone dialing a different emergency service's number may refuse to roam onto another network, leading to trouble if there is no access to the home network. Dialing 112 forces the phone to make the call on any network possible. However, some GSM networks (e.g. in Belgium, Spain, UK, Liechtenstein, Austria) are reported to connect emergency calls only from phones with a valid account on their network, e.g. customers and roamers only. Some GSM networks will not accept emergency calls from phones without a SIM card, or even require a SIM card that has credit.

In the United States, the FCC requires networks to route every mobile-phone 911 call to an emergency service call center, including phones that have never had service, or whose service has lapsed. As a result, there are programs that provide donated used mobile phones to victims of domestic violence and others especially likely to need emergency services.

Mobile phones generate additional problems for emergency operators, as many phones will allow emergency numbers to be dialed even while the keypad is locked. Since mobile phones are typically carried in pockets and small bags, the keys can easily be depressed accidentally, leading to unintended calls. A system has been developed in the UK which connects calls where the caller is silent to an automated system, leaving more operators free to handle genuine emergency calls.[2]

Configuration and operationEdit

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, they still 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. The nature of the emergency (police, fire, medical) is then determined. If the call has been answered by a telephone operator, they then connect the call to the appropriate emergency service, who then dispatches the appropriate help. In the case of multiple services being needed on a call, the most urgent need must be determined, with other services being called in as needed.

Emergency dispatchers are trained to control the call in order to provide help in an appropriate manner. 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 CPR.

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, making the number visible even for users who have unlisted numbers or who block caller ID. For an individual fixed landline telephone, the caller's 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.

History of emergency services numbers Edit

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. Some people in the UK have reported accidentally dialing 112 by loop-disconnect while working on extension telephone wiring, and point to this as a disadvantage of that number.[How to reference and link to summary or text]

The first North American emergency number was the 999 system deployed in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada in 1959 at the urging of Stephen Juba, mayor of Winnipeg at the time. The first US 911 emergency phone system was set up in Alabama in 1968, but it was not in use everywhere until the 1970s. To standardize the number across most of the NANP, Canada switched to using 911 as its emergency number in 1972. (Some Caribbean islands use 999.)

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 was 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 CEPT recommended the use of 112 in 1972. The European Union subsequently adopted the 112 number as a standard on 29 July, 1991. It is now a valid emergency number throughout EU countries and in many other CEPT countries. It sometimes works in parallel with other emergency numbers in countries such as Britain and Ireland.

Emergency numbers by regionEdit

There is no worldwide emergency number.


  • Chad: fire 18; police 17
  • Djibouti: fire 18; police 17
  • Ghana: 999; police 191; fire 192; medical 193
  • Morocco: fire 15; police (city) 19; royal military police (country) 177
  • South Africa: police or fire 10111; medical 10177; from mobile phones 112 (soon also from fixed line phones)
  • Tunisia: medical 190; police 197
  • Uganda: police 999
  • Zimbabwe: 999; fire 993; medical 994; police 995




[SOS 112]

  • Most common emergency number 112 (also standard on GSM mobile phones) — used in Austria, Belgium, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom (sources: European Radiocommunications Office, European Union, SOS 112 Europe).
  • Austria: fire 122; police 133; medical 144
  • Belgium: 112; fire and medical 100; police 101; missing children 110; mental problems/suicide 106
  • Bulgaria: medical 150; fire 160; police 166
  • Croatia: 112; police 92; fire 93; medical 94; road help 987
  • Cyprus: 112; 199
  • Czech Republic: 112; medical 155; fire 150; police 158; municipal police 156
  • Denmark: police, fire, medical, environment 112
  • Estonia: 112; police 110
  • Finland:police, fire, medical, environment 112;
  • France: 112; medical 15; police 17; fire and rescue 18
  • Germany: police 110; fire and medical 112
  • Greece: 112; police 100; medical 166; fire 199; forest fire 191; coast guard emergency intervention 108; counter-narcotics immediate intervention 109
  • Hungary: 112; police 107; fire and rescue 105; medical 104
  • Ireland: 112 or 999
  • Italy: police and 113; Carabinieri (military police) 112; medical 118; fire or disaster 115
  • Latvia: 112; fire and rescue 01; police 02; medical 03; gas leaks 04
  • Lithuania: 112; fire 01, 101, or 011; police 02, 102, or 022; medical 03, 103, or 033. Note: the non-112 numbers are for separate emergency services differ in distinct telecommunications networks, whereas 112 available on all networks.
  • Netherlands: 112; police (non-urgent) 0900-8844; spoken emergency information during a state of emergency for western North Brabant: 0800-02002010. Every region of the country also has a local emergency line for medical help, dealing with medical emergencies which are an emergency and serious but not serious enough to be dealt with the national emergency telephone number.
  • Norway: fire and rescue 110; police 112; medical 113
  • Poland: 112; medical 999; fire 998; police 997
  • Portugal: 112; fire 117
  • Romania: 112. Mountain Rescue is usually beyond the scope of 112 and each mountain rescue station has its own number. A call to 112 will usually get you through to Mountain Rescue, but is far slower than calling directly.
  • Russia: fire 01; police (militsia) 02; medical 03; gas leaks 04; general emergency from mobile phone 112
  • Serbia: 112; police 92; fire 93; medical 94
  • Slovakia: 112; medical 155; fire 150; police 158
  • Slovenia: 112; police 113; rescue, fire and medical 112
  • Spain: 112; police 091; Civil Guard 062; fire 080 or 085; medical 061
  • Sweden: 112
  • Switzerland: fire 118; police 117; medical 144; poison 145; road emergency 140; psychological support (free and anonymous) 143; psychological support for teens and children (free and anonymous) 147; helicopter air-rescue (Rega) 1414 or by radio on 161.300 MHz. The European emergency number 112 is also supported, and is the one recommended for use from mobile phones.
  • Ukraine: 112 being implemented; fire 01; police (militsia) 02; medical 03; gas leaks 04
  • United Kingdom: 112 or 999. 101 is now used as a non-emergency number for police and local authorities in several areas in England and Wales, and will be extended to cover all of England and Wales by 2008.


  • Australia: 000. On a mobile phone, dial 112 or 000, remembering to tell the operator what state you are in. If you have a textphone/TTY, you can use the National Relay Service on 106. SES units in Victoria, New South Wales and South Australia can be contacted on 132 500. In Western Australia, the number is 1300 130 039. In the ACT, the number is 6207 8455. In Queensland, Tasmania and Northern Territory, you will have to call the individual units.
  • Fiji: fire and medical 911; police 917
  • New Zealand: 111; urgent but not emergency police/traffic number *555 (from mobile phones only). Redirect connects many popular foreign emergency numbers. From mobile phones, the international emergency numbers 112, 911 and 08 also work.
  • Vanuatu: 112

North AmericaEdit

South AmericaEdit

  • Argentina: medical 107; police 101; fire 100; emergency dispatcher for Buenos Aires (city) and Buenos Aires (province) 911
  • Bolivia: medical 118; police 110
  • Brazil: human rights 100; emergency number for Mercosul area 128; fire 193; medical 192; police 190; federal police 194; civil police 197; civil defense 199; federal highway police 191; state highway police 198. See also: Brazilian telephone numbering plan#Public utility.
  • Chile: medical 131; fire 132; police 133
  • Colombia: 112 or 123 (landlines and mobile phones); police 156; fire 119; traffic accidents 127; medical 132; GAULA (anti-kidnapping) 165. More specialized three-digit numbers are available; check the local Yellow Pages for more information.
  • Peru: fire 711
  • Suriname: 115
  • Uruguay: 911
  • Venezuela: 171

Middle EastEdit

See alsoEdit


  1. Council Decision 91/396/EEC of 29 July 1991 on the introduction of a single European emergency call number, OJ L217, 6.8.91, p.31.

External links Edit


de:Notruf fr:Numéro d'appel d'urgence ko:응급 전화번호nl:Alarmnummer no:Nødnummer fi:Hätänumero sv:Nödnummer

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