Most people don’t know the European wide emergency number, research shows

by Ray Clancy on February 28, 2012

112 is the European Union wide emergency number

The majority of people living in Europe don’t know what telephone number to call in an emergency at home or abroad, a survey has found.

They are unaware of the new European Union wide 112 number which was introduced in July 1991 in order to enable people to call the emergency services, police, fire and ambulance, by using the same number from anywhere in the EU.

The number is free from landlines and mobiles and connects the caller to the relevant service in the country they are calling from.

Some 74% of Europeans don’t know what number to call in an emergency. Only 26% of the 30,000 people questioned identified 112 as the correct number, the survey from Eurobarometer shows.

Only in four countries did at least 50% of respondents spontaneously identify 112. In Poland it was 60%, 55% in Luxembourg, 51% in Finland and 50% in the Netherlands.

Just under half, 47%, of all EU citizens said they would call 112 in the event of an emergency in their own country. This marks a slight fall in awareness of 112 as a number to call domestically since the 2011 survey, when 50% said they would call 112.

Comparing the proportion of respondents who were able to list at least one correct emergency service in their country from those who weren’t, it appears that 86% of Europeans were able to mention a valid number whereas 14% either listed an incorrect number or were not aware of any.

The proportion of respondents who said they would call 112 in their own country ranged from 96% in Sweden to 1% in the UK.

However, knowledge of 112 as a national emergency number does not necessarily translate into awareness of 112 as the European emergency number. Only around four in 10 respondents, 38%, who said that they would call 112 in the event of an emergency in their own country, also knew that this number could be used in other EU countries.

Almost four out of ten respondents said that they had travelled to another EU country at least once in the last 12 months. Individuals who travelled within the EU showed greater awareness of 112 than people who did not.

Familiarity with 112 as an EU wide number was higher among those who had travelled to another EU country within the last 12 months, some 34% compared with 21% of those who did not travel.

Since the end of 2008, all EU member states are supposed to have ensured that anyone can call the emergency services from fixed and mobile phones by using the 112 number.

But there are national differences in the availability of emergency numbers. In some member states 112 has become the main national emergency number such as Denmark, Finland, Malta, the Netherlands, Portugal, Romania, and Sweden. But in others 112 is in operation alongside other emergency numbers. In the UK, for example, citizens can either call 112 or the national number 999 in the event of an emergency.

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