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ITU To Choose Emergency Line For Mobiles: 911, or 112? 354

First time accepted submitter maijc writes "The International Telecommunication Union will determine the standard emergency phone numbers for new generations of mobile phones and other devices. AP reports that member states have agreed that either 911 or 112 should be designated as emergency phone numbers. 911 is currently used in North America, while 112 is standard across the EU and in many other countries worldwide."
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ITU To Choose Emergency Line For Mobiles: 911, or 112?

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  • Re:Why not both? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 13, 2012 @10:39AM (#42272591)

    The UK added 112 as an alternative many years ago, so while 999 is the popularly ingrained emergency number there would be no problem in the UK with a phone having 112 as the default emergency number.

  • by Chrisq ( 894406 ) on Thursday December 13, 2012 @10:44AM (#42272659)

    I believe in Asia (or at least Korea), it's 119, so even those two aren't consistent internationally.

    One argument for 112 is that it's easier to quickly dial if you're having an emergency moment and your finger-mobility is limited. An argument against would be that it's easier to dial by accident. I believe that 911/119 were chosen partially because those were the farthest spaced digits, to prevent accidental dialling.

    I once had a co-worker who had a very simple phone number. Something like 555-545-4544 (or had only 2-3 unique digits). He amused us once by playing back a message that some random young child had left on his voicemail over the weekend, presumably after mashing keys on the phone. The interesting part was that it wasn't the first such voicemail he had, but it was generally from different random children.

    So 112 may be easier to dial in an emergency, but it's also likely to have a higher number of mis-dials or 3-year-olds that just picked up a phone and mashed part of the number-pad.

    The 911 goes back to the dial telephone days, when numbers could be dialled by line clicks. Nine is very unlikely to be mis-dialled, but took longer (9 or 10 pulses to send), and 1 was quick, so 911 was a good compromise. In the UK 999 would almost never be dialled by line noise but took longer.

  • Re:Why not both? (Score:4, Informative)

    by FireFury03 ( 653718 ) <> on Thursday December 13, 2012 @10:49AM (#42272737) Homepage

    most switches use the first digit being a "1" to denote the beginning of a long distance call.

    Untrue. In most (but not all) of the world, the international dialing prefix is 00

    And in the UK, the prefix 0 denotes a non-local call (i.e. outside your own STD code) whilst 1 usually denotes a service local to your specific telco (customer services, etc) although there are exceptions to this, such as the 118xxx numbers for directory enquiries. Numbers starting 2-9 are local (within your STD code) except for 999 (emergency services).

    Going with '112' breaks a perfectly good standard in a country that at least has a standard phone number format.

    The problem with this attitude is that mobile standards are international, and there are numerous countries with standard domestic number formats that are not the same as the US's. Unfortunately, the US attitude always seems to be to disagree with any international standardisation process rather than reach a compromise (I think anyone who has worked on the international telephone network protocols will agree with this - most of the ANSI protocols are different to the ITU recommendations for no reason other than to be different)

  • by Twinbee ( 767046 ) on Thursday December 13, 2012 @10:49AM (#42272741) Homepage
    Vid for those in the dark: []
  • Re:Why not both? (Score:3, Informative)

    by vmlemon ( 1203598 ) on Thursday December 13, 2012 @11:17AM (#42273179) Homepage
    In fact, at least with GSM, and UMTS-based handsets, when you dial the local emergency services number, the number itself isn't actually dialled. Instead, a call with a specific "Emergency" flag is made, and the network deals with routing appropriately.
  • by kybred ( 795293 ) on Thursday December 13, 2012 @11:19AM (#42273237)
    Per the 3GPP specs for GSM, the SIM has an item for Emergency Call Codes (EFecc) that can contain up to 5 call codes, each up to 3 digits. If any of these codes is dialed the phone will put the call through as an emergency call. This is to allow for localization of the emergency numbers. Since in a mobile, you enter the entire number to be called then hit SEND (or the equivalent), the switch doesn't have to decide how to route your call as you are dialing it, like is done for landlines.

    I think the mobile phones are the easy part, the hard part will be the 'other devices' which presumably will include landlines.

  • Re:Prior use (Score:4, Informative)

    by Miamicanes ( 730264 ) on Thursday December 13, 2012 @06:25PM (#42280889)

    > the only time you'd start with a 1 is when dialing the NANP country code followed by an area code,
    > or when dialing the emergency services.

    Not quite. You forgot about 11-prefixed vertical service codes ( [] ).

    That said, AFAIK, nothing today actually USES 112, and no vertical service codes BEGIN with 112, so it could technically be used as an emergency number. Nevertheless, I see one of three things happening:

    Scenario 1: ITU declares that 112 and 911 are emergency numbers everywhere, except in countries where it would screw up the phone system. The US yawns and says, "OK, we'll make 112 work here as an alias for 911".

    Scenario 2: ITU declares that 112 must be the One and Only emergency number worldwide, and that countries must stop using 911 entirely. The US tells the ITU to go to hell. Canadians quietly do the same in less heated terms, but implement 112 as a fallback second emergency number anyway. The FCC plans to quietly do the same, then some halfwit elected official gets the stupid idea of making it the nationwide "patriot hotline" number to report suspicious un-American activity to DHS, and the whole thing goes down in flames.

    Scenario 3: ITU declares that 112 is mandatory and 911 is optional. The US grudgingly agrees, asks carriers to implement it, and sets a compliance deadline of 2025.

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