back to article Europe-wide emergency number is go

The last country in Europe, Bulgaria, has now signed up to the universal emergency number 112. All 27 countries in the European Union now share the same number, although existing services, like 999 in the UK, will not change. Viviane Reding, the EU Telecoms Commissioner said: “There is still work to be done by the EU Member …


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  1. Ferry Boat

    ...and it seems to be an emergency...

    I can't get the 112 number stored in my brain as the emergency number. I suppose growing up with 999 fixes it. The other countries I've lived in used 999 too. It was always an odd choice as in the old days the emergency number was one of the slowest to dial. 112 would have been much quicker.

  2. Pete Silver badge

    ... but you still have to speak the local language

    don't be fooled into thinking you'll be able to explain to the emergency operator in english:

    "oh please come quickly, I think I'm having a heart attack - yes, we're the third house down on the right hand side"

    will still be met with a resounding "Que?". followed by ...... no ambulance, or fire service or police or whatever. The hardest and final part of becoming fluent in any language, is being able to speak to a native on the phone, Even harder if they're an official - who potentially could be put to a great deal of inconvenience if they make the mistake of "understanding" you.

    Even worse, is when you discover that countries such as Spain actually have 3 different police forces (National, Local and Civil) each of whom deals with different aspects - and won't redirect your call if you phone the wrong one, even if you do make the mistake of calling them on 112.

    So, having a single number is nice in theory, however for a brit abroad, don't fall into a false sense of security by thinking the system will work as it does in the UK - they aren't called FOREIGN countries for nothing.

  3. Jerome

    The Europe of Results

    "The number was introduced in 1991"

    Wow, 17 years to introduce a phone number. See how the Europe of results can help people?

  4. PatAdam

    Great, but...

    All I need to do now is to learn Bulgarian to explain what the emergency is...

  5. Tim J
    Paris Hilton


    One line in the article reads...

    "17 countries can also deal with calls in other European countries."

    Is that supposed to read "other European languages?".

    Or does it indeed mean what it says - and this is in utilised in border areas when mobile phones connect to the 'wrong' network on the other side of the border. An obvious example of where this might happen is the Alps, but there are a zillion other locations too, including the border on the island of Ireland.

    Paris, because she likes 'cross border' pursuits...

    (Apols, best I could come up with this morning.)

  6. SnakeskinCowboy

    Great job.

    Asking 10 people in my office is anyone knew the Europe-wide emergency number, nobody knew it. Had a few guesses, 911, 999, 000 and so forth...

    Perhaps they need to spend a tad more on advertising....

  7. Anonymous Coward

    The IT Crowd

    How long until we can all use 0118 999 881 999 119 725...3 :)


    TV Commercial Narrator: From today, dialing 999 won't get you the emergency services. And that's not the only thing that's changing. Nicer ambulances, faster response times, and better-looking drivers mean they're not THE emergency-services, they're YOUR emergency-services. So, remember the new number: 0118 999 881 999 119 725... 3. [Beat] That's 0118 999 881 999 119 725... 3.

    Moss: [Watching the commercial] Well that's easy to remember! 0118 999 881 999 119 725...3.

    [Roy Enters.]

    Roy: I don't know why they couldn't keep it as it was, how hard is it to remember 911?

    Moss: You mean 999.

    Roy: I mean 999!

  8. Martin

    It says...

    "17 EU countries reported they could handle calls in foreign EU >>languages<<".

  9. Tony Green

    Cue feigned outrage

    How long before UKIP start scaremongering that 999 will be abolished?

  10. Josh


    And here I was hoping for an easy-to-remember number like:

    0118 999 881 999 119 725...3

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    I'm pretty sure that in Switzerland you have to dial a different number for each emergency service. They also have a special number to ring if you've been poisoned...

  12. Avi


    "now we can see how the Europe of results can help people in everyday life.”

  13. Roy Stilling

    Re: Switzerland

    Switzerland is not in the EU so don't have to comply with this. I think 112 redirects to the local emergency number on all GSM networks as well.

  14. Tim Hogard

    Pick a number... any number?

    I like how kiddy TV shows in Australia cover how to dial 911 when the correct number is 000. The mock police cars often shown at events are used for US movies and also show the 911 number. I think the 911 chosen by Bell was the best choice since it can be dialled by people who recently became vision impaired, its not likely to be dialled by accident and wasn't much of an integration problem with too many phone systems. The Aussies picked the worst option since work phones often need a 0 to dial out and international is all 00 so people get used to dialling 00011 from work and get the emergency operator at home. There have also been reports that up to 30% of the calls to 000 are wrong numbers.

  15. John


    There used to be ads on TV in Northern Ireland for a maker of chemical fertilisers whose tagline was 'Richardsons gets results'. Richardsons went bust.

  16. alain williams Silver badge

    999 has huge advantages

    Much easier to find on a phone - find the '9' and press 4 times.

    Why 4 -- well, you might be in an office where you need '9' for an outside line. So with the new number you press '112' -- drat, '9112' by which time you are toast anyway.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    Re: Great, but...

    That is actually Bulgarian Telecom finally conceding. Its first letters are not BT for nothing (time to duck...)

    The Bulgarian mobile operators have had it for a long time. They also used to run their own first-level call centers for that to direct you to the right number and have people who speak at least English (usually a few more European languages as well) on the payroll.

    So dunno about Spain, but in Bulgaria you actually have some chance of getting an ambulance after dialing 112 and speaking in English. At least you used to, when it was not a national number and Mobiltel ran the first line callcenter out of good will. I do not quite see you having the same chance by dialing 112 (or even 999) in the UK and speaking Bulgarian. Ditto for anyone calling 112 in France and speaking anything different from FLUENT french.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Now that is 27 countries where the police can't be bothered to turn up if I call them!

  19. Anonymous Coward


    Last time I checked, Switzerland was not part of the EU. They probebrly have a different number in outer Mongolia as well.

  20. Seán

    Seems odd

    Why not have 999,911and 112 all direct to the same number. If some panicked yank starts mashing 911 because they're flustered by an emergency situation then why not just connect them? It's not as if 911 is being used by the local butcher.

    As for Pete how clever of you to notice that as a foreigner you should have the common courtesy to speak the language of the country you're in.

  21. Tim J

    @ Martin

    It might say "17 EU countries reported they could handle calls in foreign EU >>languages<<" ***now***, but when I submitted my comment it said "17 EU countries reported they could handle calls in foreign EU >>countries<<" - I didn't just make that up, I copied and pasted it direct from the article. In other words it's been corrected after I wrote my comment.

    Perhaps I should have contacted the author directly instead of submitting a comment - but I didn't.

  22. Matt


    Couldn't get a mobile signal in Outer Mongolia and wasn't sure how long it'd take the ambulance to get across the desert either :-)

    In most European countries they'll be able to find someone who can speak basic English and if you phone on a land line they'll know where you are anyway. Of course the chances of speaking French, German or anything except English to a UK switchboard are pretty much nil.

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    3 taps and your through.

    The reason why (in the UK) we had 999 instead of 111, was because when the 999 service was first introduced, things like trees brushing up against the overhead cables produced a "1" signal. Early tests showed that a tree could very easily dial 111 over and over again on a windy day. Same goes for 112. 999 had the lowest statistical chance of being dialed by a tree as it would have needed to be a pretty intelligent tree to brush the wires 27 times, with a slight pause after each 9th brush. They didn't have the number 0 back then (for those of you wondering why not 000).

  24. Matt Horrocks

    And to 9112...

    Or where I work, 112 connects you anyway without having to prefix it with '9'. Our extensions are 100-199 so when we set it up... you can see the picture when we assigned extension 112 to someone - every time we call them we get emergency services.

    Now everything over 111 is one out on the patch panels as we had to skip 112 on the exchange.


  25. Tim Brown

    cars phoning in when crashed

    What I find interesting is this tidbit tucked away on their website:

    "automatic in-vehicle emergency calls: according to an action plan agreed between the Commission and industry, all new cars should be equipped with “eCall” from 2010 onwards. This technology will call the emergency services in case of an accident, using 112 to send accident data, including the car's location. Many Member States need to upgrade their infrastructure to enable the emergency services to receive and process the “eCall” data."

    I hate to think how many timewasting calls such a system will generate!

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @Seems Odd

    "Why not have 999,911and 112 all direct to the same number"

    I though that they all did in the UK

  27. Dan Silver badge

    Here's a nice website by the EU

    It says what services each country offers if you call 112.

  28. David

    999, 911 etc can't be allocated because they are used for other purposes

    You can't allocate 999 or 911 or any of the other local emergency codes on the fixed line phone systems across Europe because they clash with normal local telephone numbers ! There are numbers in most countries, including the Uk and ireland starting with 911 and plenty if countries around Europe have local numbers starting with 999 so they're unusable for any other purpose. It's different with mobiles as you have to press send, a land line will automatically connect you.

    112 doesn't clash with any European numbering system so it works!

  29. Anonymous Coward

    Accidental roaming

    "including the border on the island of Ireland."

    Don't even need to be near the border. Made a mobile call one time in Portstewart but didn't notice I was roaming on Eircom or similar. Poor Orange signal + big mobile tower somewhere in the far north of Co. Donegal = Most. Expensive. Call. Ever. :-(

  30. Henry Wertz Gold badge

    smokey bear

    @Pete: We already have that in the states. The various police, with (for your amusement) CB names for them: Local police ("fuzz"), county police ("county mounties"), state patrol ("black bear", "brown bear", "smokey bear" depending on black, brown, or gray cars... blue ones are usually some kind of bear as well.) The state patrol is more for catching highway speeders. On a landline you usually will get the right one (in the city the city policy make most sense for instance), on a cell phone, since the exact location isn't known, you're very likley to get the wrong one.

    The main logic between "911" (which really doesn't apply as much in this day of touchtone phones)... "9" is pretty high so it won't be dialed by accident, then "1" is the fastest digit to dial on a rotary phone. Now that people dial "9" to get out of so many PBXes etc., this isn't necessarily so good though.

  31. Graham Marsden

    @Sean, @Jaowon

    @Sean: 911 is not usable in the UK because some UK phone numbers start with those three digits.

    @Jaowon: The other reason for choosing 999 in the UK was that, with the old rotary dial phones, it was easiest to dial in the dark, you just found the bottom of the dial and put your middle finger in the first hole which was 0, then your index finger in the hole next to it which had to be 9 and you didn't need to find any other digits thereafter.

  32. alan

    Re Seán

    "As for Pete how clever of you to notice that as a foreigner you should have the common courtesy to speak the language of the country you're in."

    so that means due to my rudimentry french, german, and dutch. No where near enough to explain emergency situations on the phone. But enough to get directions, and shop, etc. I am no longer allowed to travel aboard as I dont speak the lingo? Yes if you live there learn it, but if you are going for a weekend break or two weeks in the sun somewhere this suggestion is stupid.

  33. David

    Accidental roaming

    If you're in a border area and you don't have some kind of preferential roaming agreement that slows you to roam got free (they do exist most Irish networks, at least for billpay) then you absolutely need to turn off automatic network selection ! Otherwise your phone just hops ontovthe strongest signal. It can't tell that you don't want to roam and radiowaves don't respect international Borders. It's quite feasable to pick up a GSM signal well beyond a border, there's very little that can bed done to prevent that other than telling your phone to stay on a single network !

  34. This post has been deleted by its author

  35. Tim J

    Re: Accidental roaming

    OfCom and ComReg - the Irish communications regulator - published a report on "Inadvertent Mobile Roaming" near the Irish border back in 2006...

    It appeared to suggest that this is more of a problem for people with UK mobiles, as the Irish mobile telcos had in effect implemented all-Ireland rates. Not sure whether there have been more recent developments though.

    Elsewhere I was stood with friends on the top of the White Cliffs of Dover and one of them received a welcome text message from his mobile network's French partner network - but it was windy so she didn't notice it at first and only read it when we were back in the town, so there was no chance to see how long it stayed locked to the French network for. Mad! I guess some uncommon tropospheric conditions may have helped, but I'm no expert in such things.

  36. David

    Accidental roaming is useful for 112

    Most GSM carriers in Europe will accept a 112 call from any phone, even if the accounts invalid, or no roaming agreement exists! It means if you dial 112 in a low signal area a competing network or a foreign network you can't usually use may pick up the call!

    Also 112 overrides GSM phones that are locked with a pin or even puk locked!

    And if you dial 112 in the USA or elsewhere on a GSM handset you'll reach then local emergency number e.g. 911 it works I had to call the cops in Boston and used 112!!

    It's an excellent service

  37. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Accidental roaming can happen...

    ...but the basic GSM standard has a hard upper limit of 35km from base to mobile device, owing to the time-of-flight of the radiowaves and the time-division-multiplex arrangement. Although the phone might list remote base-stations in a scan, you can't actually connect to something too far away.

    I've no idea whether 3G/UMTS has any similar limits.

  38. Jacob Lipman

    Roaming, 112/999/911, etc.

    US law requires telcos to facilitate 911 calls.

    Emergency calls from payphones are free

    Have an analog carphone from the 80's? If it can find an analog transceiver, it works for 911.

    Stole a phone and used it to arrange crack cocaine transactions for three days before it was disconnected, now one of those crack deals took a bad turn and you need help from the boys in blue? It works for 911.

    As for roaming in the US, I can't speak for other carriers, but my Sprint cell phone automatically connects to other networks. However, a warning dialog informing you that a roaming rate will be charged appears whenever you make or answer a call, giving you the option to cancel before this happens. I've never noticed an extra charge for receiving text messages or voicemail notifications while roaming, and I don't bother accessing the internet from my phone, although I imagine a similar warning dialog appears when attempting to connect.

    I have taken my phone to Toronto, Ontario, Canada, where, alas, I did nothing but roam. Although it did little else aside from keeping me accurately apprised of the time, it was convenient to have it with me as a phonebook; while I was in Canada I purchased a pay-as-you-go cell phone, so that in combination with a phone card I could make fairly inexpensive calls home.

  39. Arnold Layne
    Paris Hilton

    Re cars phoning in when crashed

    Bloody hell! With the way the French park that's the Parisian emergency centres swamped by calls within 5 minutes of the system going live.

  40. Robert E A Harvey

    Accidental roaming

    I've had 'welcome to france' messages pop up when I was walking along the Jurrasic coast footpath.

    And an HP 613C that, even turned off and in the luggage rack of the plane, picked up 'welcome to russia' texts while flying home from Korea.

  41. Philip Harvey


    Reg hack fails to understand the difference between the EU and Europe. The title should have been "EU wide emergency number is go"

    There are plenty of countries in Europe that are not in the EU. e.g. I live in Switzerland, and there is a different number for each emergency service. Dumb I know, but hey, if the Reg kills someone with their crappy reporting then it won't be so funny will it?

  42. W


    From the stats at

    a) Approximate monthly number of 112 calls [per head of population, per month]

    b) Share of hoax/false 112 calls (i.e. malicious calls, inadvertent calls or intended calls not related to a real emergency)

    c) Measures against hoax/false 112 calls

    d) Level of awareness of 112 as a domestic emergency number

    e) Level of awareness of 112 as the European emergency number available across the EU


    a) 2.8 million (including calls to 999) [0.0457 per head, per month]

    b) 44% of mobile, 93% of fixed calls

    c) call filter / "specific procedures" / supplemental questions

    d) 4%

    e) 6%


    a) 400 000 (including calls to 999) [0.0904 per head, per month]

    b) Up to 80%

    c) prosecution and /penal sanctions

    d) 15%

    e) 14%


    a) 1.38 million [0.0168 per head, per month]

    b) 10-50%

    c) black list / call back to warn and dissuade offenders / prosecution / penal sanctions

    d) 65%

    e) 12%


    a) 1.1 million [0.0170 per head, per month]

    b) n/a

    c) n/a

    d) 10%

    e) 25%


    a) 2.5 million [0.0419 per head, per month]

    b) n/a

    c) n/a

    d) 22%

    e) 6%


    a) 3.312 million [0.0719 per head, per month]

    b) 63.3%%

    c) black list / prosecution / penal sanctions

    d) 57%

    e) 19%


    a) 300 000 million [0.0324 per head, per month]

    b) 60%

    c) call filter

    d) 96%

    e) 37%


    a) 47 500 [0.0028 per head, per month]

    b) 66%

    c) automatic warning messages / warning SMS / prosecution / penal sanctions

    d) 95%

    e) 34%


    a) 65 250 [0.0113 per head, per month]

    b) 75%

    c) black list

    d) 3%

    e) 29%


    a) 300 000 [0.0078 per head, per month]

    b) 70%

    c) n/a

    d) 58%

    e) 56%


    Ireland make an astonishingly large number of emergency calls compared to "safe as houses" Poland and the Netherlands.

    The UK also raises a lot of false alarms (where's Dad's Army's "Don't panic!" Jones when you need him?) but only adopts a softly softly approach to the miscreants.

    The UK are predictably clueless when it comes to awareness of 112.

  43. W


    The most easily remembered number is obviously 0891 50 50 50

  44. etabeta
    Thumb Down

    Big problem in Italy

    There is a BIG problem in Italy with this number; as 112 is (and has been for many years) the number for the Carabinieri, the Italian paramilitary police. From my personal experience, they are absolutely not qualified to handle the task, due to a endemic lack of formal education in their ranks. Most Carabinieri don't even have a high school diploma; and if any foreigner calls and doesn't know Italian they won't even understand you, that's if they answer the phone at all!

    The emergency number in Italy is 118, their operations are much better organized, they only handle medical emergencies and they can immediately geographically locate the origin of land-line calls, but not (yet) for mobile calls.

    I think that the EU should thoroughly investigate the quality-of-service of the 112 service in it's member states.

  45. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Does 112 also bypass mobile phone number lock?

    With mobile phone number lock on I've still unintentionally dialled 999 when the phone was in a pocket.

    Does 112 also override the mobile phone number lock in the same way? I'm reluctant to test it out and can't find any web pages that say either way...

  46. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    112 overrides most locks on most handsets.

    112 overrides the phone lock more reliably than 999 will. It will do so on ALL GSM handsets, even quite old ones.

    It also overrides the PUK lock!

    Ireland's 999 / 112 call rates seem pretty ridiculous. One problem we had over here was that Vodafone Ireland (eircell) chose "121" for voicemail access way back when the mobile phone first hit the market in the 1980s. The 999 / 112 call centres were getting thousands of calls from people trying to check their voicemail and misdialling!

    For that reason, 121 was withdrawn (sometime in the early 2000s) and "171" for voicemail access was made a requirement for all networks, including fixed line operators, to keep things a little easier to understand.

    Also, Comreg removed any other 'short codes' close to 112.

    Yet, we still seem to have the most ridiculous number of calls per capita !

    There's a proposal for a pan-EU non-urgent emergency number. That should help! E.g. for 'curtain twitchers' reporting 'suspicious activities' ... Or people who need urgent information about how to open a can of beans.

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