To mark "European 112 Day" on 11th February, the European Commission is urging Member States to step up their efforts to increase public awareness of the existence of 112, the number which can be used in all EU Member States to reach emergency services. An EU-wide survey released today shows around three out of four EU citizens still do not know this life-saving number. However, EU telecoms rules require Member States to make their citizens aware of the 112 number. To increase the protection of EU citizens, Member States are further required to improve the accuracy and reliability of caller location information under the new EU telecoms rules, which must be implemented into national law by 25 May this year (see MEMO/09/568).
Neelie Kroes, European Commission Vice President for the Digital Agenda said: "The European emergency number "112" saves lives, but only if people know about it. Member States must do more to ensure that everyone knows they can dial "112" in an emergency."
Awareness rates not improving
A recent Eurobarometer survey shows that just over a quarter (26%) of EU citizens questioned could spontaneously identify 112 as the number to call the police, fire brigade or ambulance services from anywhere in the EU. Only in five countries (the Czech Republic, Finland, Luxembourg, Poland and Slovakia), was a majority of the population able to identify 112 as the emergency number to call from anywhere in the EU. In Greece, Italy, and the UK, less than 10% of citizens were aware.
The progress at EU level has been minimal in recent years (from 22% in 2008 to 26% in 2011). In some countries, however, citizens are much more aware of 112 as the EU-wide emergency number than last year: Austria (up from 31% to 39%, Finland (from 50% to 56%) and The Netherlands (from 45% to 50%).
While most EU countries report that they have taken some action to promote 112 (such as showing the 112 number on emergency vehicles), according to the report, only 27% of EU citizens said they have received information related to 112 during the course of last year. In view of the slow progress, the Commission is assessing whether Member States are adequately fulfilling their obligation to inform citizens about 112.
Since July 2009, people who use their mobile phone or devices while roaming in another EU country must receive an SMS or alert message from the network operators with information about 112. However, in the survey, 81% of EU citizens who travel to another Member State claim not to have received this information. Under the new EU telecoms rules to be implemented by May 2011, information must also be made available for travellers, for example in airports, train stations and international bus terminals.
Receiving accurate information about the location of the caller dialling 112 can speed up the arrival of emergency services reduce the severity of injuries and save lives. The new EU telecoms rules require that caller location is made available free-of-charge as soon as the call reaches the emergency services. They also set out that systems must be improved in order to give more accurate and reliable information to establish the exact whereabouts of the caller.
To ensure 112 is working effectively, the Commission started legal action against 14 Member States over the lack of availability of caller location information; 13 are now closed following corrective measures (one case is still pending against Italy, IP/09/1784). Legal action was also launched and subsequently closed against Poland and Bulgaria concerning the availability of 112 (IP/05/1585, IP/09/163), and against Italy concerning the appropriate handling of 112 calls by emergency services (IP/10/65). Currently the Commission is further studying the situation in several Member States where it seems that information on caller location is not provided for all fixed subscribers and/or users of mobile phone services while roaming.
The European emergency number 112 can be reached free of charge from fixed and mobile phones in all EU Member States (IP/08/1968). Denmark, Finland, Malta, The Netherlands, Portugal, Romania and Sweden have also decided to make 112 their own main national emergency number. Moreover, 112 is being picked up outside the EU, such as in Croatia, Montenegro and Turkey. Ukraine has also planned to introduce this number.