112 Emergency Number Launched in India: All You Need To Know

Memorising emergency helpline numbers can be difficult. Worry not! Here is good news. India has rolled out a single emergency helpline number 112 for urgent help. Read on for more information.

By Dr Priscilla J S Selvaraj & Leena Ghosh

112 Emergency Number Launched in India: All You Need To Know
Dial 112!

Bang, bang, bang… Amit heard someone thumping violently on his front door. He looked at the clock on the bedside table. It was just 3:00 a.m. Irritated and clenching his teeth, he dragged his feet towards the door and opened it. It was the elderly gentleman who lived next door. He was panic-stricken and trembling all over. “Fire, fire… air conditioner…,” he mumbled. Smoke was curling out through his door that was ajar. Amit asked the gentleman to go to the ground floor using the stairs and rushed inside to wake up his family. As he was doing this, he grabbed the phone and fumbled with the keys… “103 or 104?” he asked himself. “No… no… no… that’s not the number for the fire service, 106… no, no… not that. Oh, my! Why on earth should there be different numbers for different emergencies?” he grumbled, while dragging his children out of the bed and urging his wife to rush to the ground floor with them.

Like Amit, have you always found it challenging to remember different helpline numbers? Well,  India has recently launched a pan-India Emergency Response Support System (ERSS) with ‘112’, a single emergency helpline number. Dialling this number will trigger an immediate response from services such as the police (100), fire (101), health (108) and women (1090).

With this, what should you do in these situations?

Situation 1: You are in the living room of your home giving suggestions for your daughter’s school project. Your wife is busy playing word games with your son. Suddenly, you hear a crackling sound followed by the smell of burnt wire. And, you can see smoke curling out through the kitchen door.

Action: Get your family out of your house immediately and dial 112.

Situation 2: You are taking a walk in the park with your 85-year-old father. He starts sweating profusely and collapses.

Action: Dial 112. Check his breathing and his pulse. Administer CPR (Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation), only if you know how to go about it.

Situation 3: You come back home with your family after a holiday. You see that the lock on the front door has been forced open.

Action: Dial 112. Do not touch anything.

Some FAQs

What is the significance of 112?

It is similar to ‘911’ in the US. It is the common emergency number in almost all the member states of the European Union. Now, in India, 112 is a single helpline number for emergencies integrating the police (100), fire (101), health (108) and women (1090) for now. There is no need to remember multiple helpline numbers.

“This practice of having one emergency number is prevalent abroad. Instead of having to remember many numbers, calling one number for all emergency services will help people more,” – A senior police official from Chennai

How do I dial 112?

You can directly dial 112 on your phone; you can also the press the power button on your smartphone three times quickly.

What should I do if I don’t have a smartphone?

You can long press the numbers 5 or 9 on your phone.

How does 112 work?

Dialling 112 from your phone activates a panic call to the Emergency Response Centre (ERC) and triggers an emergency response from their end. For this, under the Union Home Ministry sponsored project, the states will have to set up their own ERCs, which will have a team of trained call-takers and dispatchers to handle all emergency requests. They will locate the caller with the help of the number he calls from and share it with the District Command Centres (DCC), which will facilitate the emergency response. This service will work like a Call Centre and representatives will communicate in English, Hindi and other local languages.

Is there any other way to contact the ERC?

Yes, you can visit the ERSS website and send them an emergency mail or an SOS alert to the state’s ERC.

Is 112 available as an app?

Yes, it is available as a free mobile app, ‘112 India’, on Google Play Store and Apple Store.

Is there any special feature on this app?

Yes, it has a special ‘SHOUT’ feature for women and children, which will alert volunteers in the vicinity of the victim to rush and assist immediately.

What will be the response time once the number is dialled?

Initially, the Government is aiming at a response time of 10 to 12 mins; however, it is planning to bring it down to around 8 mins in the next 6-8 months.

Has this service been activated across India?

To begin with, it is being rolled out in 16 states and Union Territories, namely, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Gujarat, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Puducherry, Andaman, Lakshadweep, Dadar Nagar Haveli, Daman and Diu, and Jammu and Kashmir. It has also been launched in Mumbai city. It was launched in Himachal Pradesh and Nagaland a few months ago. It will be gradually rolled out across the country.

Will other emergency numbers cease to be active?

Emergency numbers such as 100, 101 and 102 will continue to be operational for a year but will be gradually phased out.

Can I dial 112 even when my phone is locked or there is no SIM in my phone?

Yes, you can. In fact, you can even dial this number from mobiles and landlines on which outgoing calls have been barred.

Should I only dial the number or can I also send an SMS to it?

You can also send an emergency SMS to this number.

Other special safety initiatives launched by the Government

Safe city implementation monitoring portal: Eight cities – Ahmedabad, Bengaluru, Chennai, Delhi, Hyderabad, Kolkata, Lucknow and Mumbai – have been identified as part of the first phase for the implementation of safe city projects in order to improve the safety of women; a cost of Rs 2,919 crore has been projected for this

Investigation Tracking System for Sexual Offences (ITSSO): This online module will benefit law enforcement agencies across the country; it will especially help speed up investigation and prosecution in rape cases

ElsaMarie D'Silva, Founder and CEO, Safe City, Chennai, shares her thoughts on the launch of 112:

1. How do you think the launch of 112 and other emergency services will help in making the cities safer?

All these new measures are great, if implemented effectively. We need gender-sensitive responses and prompt action.

2. The government plans to aim a response time of 10 to 12 minutes to any call, which will be further brought down to around eight minutes within the next 6-8 months. What are your thoughts on the response time planned by the government?

One needs to understand why the current helplines don’t work and they need to fix the issue first. A uniform number for help is the need of the hour and eight minutes is way too long. Nobody waits for eight minutes, especially when seeking help. The government should aim to have a faster response time.

3. What do you think about the effectiveness of this plan?

If the tracking system is prompt, effective and gender-sensitive, it will be great. Currently the justice system is lengthy and intimidating, thus preventing women from reporting their experiences.

Many current emergency numbers are state or city-based, which means that you cannot access these numbers from anywhere in the country. Whereas, in countries like the US, you can call 911 from anywhere and get a response. Today we have the technology to trace calls, so it is easier to respond to a caller in distress. So, I think having a uniform number will be beneficial for us. However, the representatives may face a lot of obstacles in the form of prank calls, but is a solvable problem today - Dr Jijaa M Harissingh, Former Director General of Police, Karnataka

Other emergency helpline numbers that are active now

100 – Police

101 – Fire

102 – Ambulance

108 – Disaster Management

181/1090 – Women’s helpline

1098 – Child helpline

1091/1291 – Senior Citizen Helpline

1095 – Traffic Police Helpline

1906 – LPG leak helpline

Equipped with this information, as a parent, you can reach out for help quickly in case of an emergency for your family. Stay safe, be happy! Together, let us build a safer India for the next generation.  

See Also: First Aid Basics: 10 Things You Must Teach Your Child

About the author:

Written by Dr Priscilla J S Selvaraj & Leena Ghosh on 19 February 2019.

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