Wednesday, June 04, 2008

They never give up!

The last time they tried promoting it was on 11 February – conveniently 112 – the number of EU-wide emergency phone.

Now, they're at it again, launching yet another campaign to increase recognition of the number – some 17 years after it was first introduced.

So far, 26 of the 27 EU member states have adopted the number, alongside their own national emergency numbers. The single defaulter, Bulgaria - has been threatened with a visit to the ECJ unless it comes into line sharpish.

But, despite the enormous investment in the system, we are told that 22 percent of people, EU-wide, are not even aware the 112 number exists. We are surprised the number is that low.

Anyhow, all this is to change – or so the EU telecoms Commissioner Viviane Reding thinks. Yesterday, she launched a brand new website telling "EU citizens" how lucky they all were to have such a caring commission looking after their welfare.

"The millions of EU citizens going on holiday this summer," she trilled, "only need to remember one emergency number – 112," then calling on member states to make the number better known and "more effective". And, with a hint of Germanic menace – you can do the accent – she added, "All EU citizens should know they can dial 112 to reach emergency services."

Certainly, the British government has been doing its best. As Booker reported in 2005, the former Home Office set as a question for its "citizenship test" for would-be immigrants the "alternative emergency telephone number". Everyone, it seems, knew 999, but no one knew 112.

Booker also recalled that, when the number was introduced in Britain in 1994, the police received more than two million calls in 12 months. Of these 300,000 were "silent", in that the caller said nothing, but the police were still obliged to investigate. Only 500, it turned out, were genuine. The rest resulted either from dialling errors, or children playing with telephones.

Currently, with 96 percent "awareness" of the number in the UK (so our provincial government claims), the only reward is that the number delivers 44 percent of all hoax/false emergency calls from mobile phones, and a staggering 93 percent from land lines.

Anyhow, those sad people with nothing to do with their time can look up the wonderful new 211 .. 123 er ... 112 web site here.


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