Catastrophic events such as Black Saturday have highlighted a vast array of shortcomings in any number of vital systems.
However, even the best systems imaginable are of little use if people don’t know how to use them. Statistics demonstrate that many people simply don’t know which know which number(s) to call in the case of an emergency. Indeed, Black Saturday saw a large number of users dialling 911, which is the emergency number in the USA. It might have been a telling comment on cultural imperialism if it the outcomes weren't so potentially tragic. In any case, our testing shows that dialling 911 from a mobile phone now redirects you to 000, although this doesn't appear to work from a fixed line.
What are Australia’s Emergency Call Services numbers?
The following numbers provide access to police, fire, and ambulance services. It should be noted that all emergency calls are free, even on prepaid plans that have used up their available credit.
- Triple Zero (000) is Australia’s primary Emergency Call Service number and should be used to access emergency assistance from all telephones (landline, mobile phones and payphones) in the first instance.
- 112 is the GSM Emergency Call Service number for use with GSM mobile phones, almost anywhere in the world. It offers some special access features, primarily the capacity to default to the best available coverage for the frequency your phone is using. 112 can also be dialled from other mobile phones, but will only offer the same features that dialling 000 provides.
- 106 is the text-based Emergency Call Service for people who are deaf or have a hearing or speech impairment. This service operates using a TTY (teletypewriter) and does not accept voice calls or SMS messages.
Please note the above numbers do not provide access to the State Emergency Service (SES). The number to call for SES is 132 500.
The nature of mobile phone networks means that in some circumstances these calls are not as reliable as calls from the fixed network. Problems that may be experienced when making a call from a mobile phone to the Emergency Call Service include:
- losing coverage thus terminating the call;
- many people concurrently reporting an emergency, leading to network congestion;
- poor reception, making it difficult for the Emergency Call Service operators to understand the caller;
- a remote location may result in limited or no network coverage being available;
- a lack of location information about the call.
When calling from a mobile phone, does the emergency service operator know your location?
The operator cannot automatically pinpoint your location if you call from a mobile phone. Mobile phone users should provide the operator with as much information about the location of the emergency situation, including the State or Territory and the town or suburb. This simple step will ensure that the emergency call is connected to the appropriate state or territory emergency service organisation. To a large degree, this limitation also applies to VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) services.
(This information was largely sourced from the Australian Communications and Media Authority website.)