How to Improve 112, the EU’s Emergency Dispatch Number

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February 11th is European 112 Day.

‘112’ is the common European emergency number in official use across 28 EU member states, and most countries surrounding the EU (including the UK).

While a few countries—such as Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Portugal, and Romania—have 112 as the sole emergency number in practice, the vast majority of countries across Europe have a second, legacy number in place, such as ‘999’ in the UK.

112

There remains a great deal of work to be done in future-proofing emergency call technology in the EU.

Related article: Testing 112/999 Calls in Europe

Since Europe’s adoption of ‘112’ in the 1990s, Avaya—with our strong heritage in best-practice routing principles—has acted as a primary provider for command and control room call centers for the 112 emergency number and many other local emergency numbers.

Working together with the European Emergency Number Association (EENA), local governments, and public safety agencies, we are committed to developing and providing Next-Generation 112 Emergency Services today.

Furthering that goal, I am delighted to announce that I have just been named the acting co-vice-chair of the NG112 committee—driving EENA’s Next-Generation initiative with acting co-vice-chair James Winterbottom, and acting NG112 committee chair Wolfgang Kampichler.

Challenges for NG112

In the EU, political and country borders can potentially present a challenge when discussing public safety interoperability and technology. Part of EENA’s mission is to facilitate that interoperability.

While the European authorities have competence control over some telecommunications issues, 112 is handled and managed by the member states, according to individual country laws and guidelines.

This lack of overall control has resulted in a service level that may differ from country to country, depending on specific demands, notably the ability to connect via other services (such as SMS or Real-Time Text) as well as access technology being more limited in some areas than others.

In certain countries, immediate action is necessary, as some of the national network service providers are likely to sunset their ISDN networks and move to IP-based connectivity at the edge of their networks within the next 5 years.

These issues must be addressed as part of NG112.

The good news is that most countries that have implemented 112 services are currently working toward common next-generation concepts, which will result in a far more harmonized system in the near future.

Location a Key Concern

One of the most important challenges we face when considering the future of 112 is the issue of the caller’s location. No matter where you are in the world, the first question that every emergency dispatcher asks is, ‘Where are you located?’

That issue could potentially be solved by smartphones that have always-on location sensors. However, that location data is still unable to pass through the national emergency service providers’ networks.

A second consideration is that nontraditional multimedia sessions (such as IM, SMS and social media) need to be taken into account, as people—young people in particular—make fewer calls and are increasingly likely to connect to emergency services via alternative methods.

Video support would be a useful addition to next-generation emergency call support. Deaf and hard-of-hearing people, deaf-blind people and people with speech disabilities could communicate via sign language, or be connected to an interpreter via their screen.

Another innovation, where guidelines and rules are currently under consideration by EENA, is an emergency smartphone app that will allow a user to provide the dispatcher with live video footage, as well as other multimedia, so that a Control Room could see firsthand what is happening, ensuring the correct response team gets engaged.

Proof of Concept OK’d

Following extensive lobbying from EENA in the last weeks of 2013, the European Commission put a budget in place for a demonstrator and proof-of-concept of the NG112 project by the year 2015.

This is a huge achievement, when you consider the scale and necessary upgrades that many different national systems will need to put in place for the concept to become reality.

Of course, a demo of the new concepts will also allow industry innovators such as Avaya, our DevConnect Partner Community, and EENA, to understand the full impact that new systems might have on the industry as a whole, and guide recommendations on legislation and standards.

While it may be too soon to say definitively, I’m hopeful that within the next several years, Next-Generation 112 services will be a reality across the EU.

Even better, it is entirely plausible that one day there will be a more global view of the emergency number. Rather than specific numbers used in specific countries, ideally the most widely-used emergency numbers (911 and 112) would be valid across the planet on a range of devices, as recently recommended by the IETF.

On the 11th of February, help us celebrate 112 awareness across the European Union, in an effort to promote a safe environment for all.

Tony O Brien (EENA)

“Observing the European 112 Day every year, on 11 February, since 2009, is crucial for promoting 112,” said Deputy Director of EENA, Tony O’Brien. “Still, more has to be done to communicate it at an EU level, in order to stop the static and reversing awareness trends. Along with the Member-States’ promotion efforts, strengthened European Commission support to improve the awareness levels and quality of service of 112 would be of great benefit to the European citizens and our emergency services.”

I couldn’t agree more, and I’m looking forward to helping raise that level of awareness, through my various educational events and venues throughout the year, including the European Emergency Number Association 2014 Workshop in Warsaw, Poland, where I will be presenting with my colleague Markus Bornheim from Frankfurt.

Also read: Is 112 Another Number of 911? No!


Want more technology, news and information from Avaya? Be sure to check out the Avaya Podcast Network landing page at http://avaya.com/APN. There, you will find additional podcasts from industry events, such as Avaya Evolutions and INTEROP, as well as other informative series by the APN staff.

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Thanks for stopping by and reading the Avaya Connected blog on E9-1-1. I value your opinions, so please feel free to comment below or, if you prefer, email me privately.

Public comments, suggestions, corrections and loose change is all graciously accepted 😉

Until next week… dial carefully.

Be sure to follow me on Twitter @Fletch911

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