The other week, we went along to a CPR for Babies course run at the local family resource centre. It was pretty good, right up until the end when the instructor suddenly went off the deep end in discussing the emergency 000 and 112 services available on mobile phones. I was pretty outraged by the mistaken and outdated information that was being taught as fact, including the myths that:
- You need to dial 112 if you want to call emergency services when your phone is locked, or out of your operator’s coverage (but within another operator’s coverage).
- If you dial 112, then the operators will be able to pin-point your exact location – the instructor gave the example of being found within the Chadstone car-park.
- Sometimes when you dial 000, the operator will ask you to ring back using 112 because of that feature.
- “They” don’t tell you about 112 because they don’t want to overload the system.
You might have gathered that I think that all of this is complete bollocks. In fact, 112 is simply the European standard number for emergency services (and hence supported on all GSM mobiles), and you should almost always simply use 000 when calling emergency services in Australia.
The facts are:
- All new (and most old) phones sold in Australia support the ability to dial 000 to get to emergency services, even when the phone is locked, the SIM is missing, or you aren’t in the right operator’s coverage area. The feature you need in your phone for this to work is for it to be a “Phase 2+” GSM handset or newer. In general, if your phone has a camera, it is new enough.
- Calling 112 or 000 will take you to exactly the same service centre. You don’t pick up special features along the way by calling 112. Unfortunately, the service centre will be able to locate you only very coarsely – effectively to the state of Australia you’re calling from. They won’t be able to know which suburb you’re in, let alone which part of the Chadstone carpark. You will need to tell the operator your location.
- You will never be asked by the emergency services operator to hang-up and ring back using a different number.
- The number 112 is not secret, and is listed on the ACMA website, the Telstra website, and the Triple Zero website. Plus, it has its own Wikipedia page.
Note that 112 does not work on fixed or VoIP phones. The only cases when dialling 112 on your mobile phone is going to be worth a try in Australia are when 000 isn’t working for you and (i) the phone was bought overseas, or (ii) the phone is really old. Even in those cases, 112 may not work either – unfortunately a mobile phone network should not be relied on as the sole means of getting help in an emergency.