EU puts European emergency number 112 on the map before the summer holidays

The European Commission has stepped up its efforts to promote the use of the charge-free European emergency number 112 in the EU. This February, the Commission asked national authorities to improve public awareness of 112, after a survey showed that only 22% of EU citizens know they can call 112 throughout Europe in an emergency.

As of the 3rd of June 2008, the new website will tell citizens how to use 112 and what to expect from it, particularly when they travel within the EU. It also shows how 112 functions in each Member State: how quickly calls are answered and in which languages. 112 does not replace national emergency numbers however, people can call 112 in an emergency requiring in particular an ambulance, fire brigade or the police.

The Commission today launched the 112 website to inform citizens about the functioning of 112 in the Member States in time for the summer holidays. Based on the information provided by Member States, it compares the performance of national authorities in implementing EU rules on 112.

The 112 website highlights best practices:

  1. Fast call handling: Member States reported on response times to 112 calls once connected. At least 97% of 112 calls are answered within 20 seconds in the Czech Republic, Spain and the United Kingdom, and at least 71% within 10 seconds in the Netherlands and Finland.
  2. 17 countries reported on their ability to answer 112 calls in foreign EU languages: 112 emergency call centres can normally handle English calls in 16 countries (Austria, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, Estonia, Finland, France, Hungary, Greece, Lithuania, Malta, the Netherlands, Slovenia, Spain, and Sweden). 7 countries said their call centres can answer in the language of a bordering Member State (Bulgaria, Germany, Estonia, Spain, Lithuania, Hungary, and Slovenia). Several countries have special arrangements allowing call centres to answer in other foreign languages such as forwarding them to other call centres with competent staff on duty (the Czech Republic, Greece, Slovenia and Spain) or to interpretation services (Finland, France, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden and the UK).
  3. Raising awareness: 4 countries broadcast TV programmes promoting 112 (Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Latvia and Sweden). Finland and Romania now annually celebrate 112 day on 11 February. Other useful tools include motorway signs (Austria and Hungary), leaflets at toll points (Spain) and SMS to roaming mobile users (Hungary).

The 112 website also indicates shortcomings:

  1. 112 is still not fully available in Bulgaria, and an infringement proceeding is still pending. While 112 is reportedly available in the Sofia region, it cannot be used nationwide.
  2. Lack of caller location for mobile 112 calls: 6 countries (Italy, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Poland, Romania and Slovakia) are currently subject to EU infringement proceedings.
  3. 9 countries did not provide information on response times to 112 calls once connected: Belgium, France, Italy, Cyprus, Luxembourg, Malta, Poland, Romania and Slovakia.
  4. 10 countries did not provide information about the ability of national 112 emergency centres to answer calls in at least one EU language that is not their national or official language: Belgium, Ireland, Italy, Cyprus, Latvia, Luxembourg, Poland, Portugal, Romania and Slovakia.