Emergency number 112 introduced in the EU 30 years ago

13.7.2021 9.30
News item
Hätäkeskuslaitoksen koulutustila.

In July 1991, the European Union decided to introduce the common emergency number 112. Its purpose was to supplement national emergency numbers and make emergency services available through one and the same number in all EU Member States.

The need for a single emergency number in the world developed in the early 20th century at the same time as the development of telephone traffic and urbanisation progressed. The world's first emergency number 999 was introduced in London in 1937. Prior to that, from 1927 onwards, the police, medical transport and fire brigade could only be contacted by telephone through a switchboard operator employed by the Post Office and by asking them to connect the emergency call to the relevant authority. However, the arrangement was slow and easily congested, especially in emergencies.

On 29 July 1991, the European Union decided that all Member States would introduce a common emergency number, 112. Finland was among the first to introduce the emergency number 112 in 1993.

This year marks the 30th anniversary of the decision to introduce the pan-European emergency number 112 in the EU. On 29 July 1991, the European Union decided that all Member States would introduce a common emergency number, 112. Finland was among the first to introduce the emergency number 112 in 1993. Since then, the number 112 has been made known to the population in different ways. The best-known campaign day around the emergency number is 11 February, or the 112 Day, which was invented in Finland and introduced in 1997. The emergency number day became established, and through it, information related to emergency response centre operations has been distributed to the population every year. Today, awareness of 112 in Finland is outstanding; 97 per cent of people in Finland know that the emergency number is 112.

Although the decision to introduce the emergency number 112 was made in the EU as early as 1991, it was only in 1998 that Member States had to ensure that all users of fixed and mobile phones could call 112 free of charge. In 2002, the emergency number 112 became mandatory for all EU Member States. Bulgaria was the last EU Member State to introduce 112 in 2008. A year earlier, the EU Commission had launched legal proceedings against Bulgaria because of the country's delay in introducing the emergency number.

Since 2003, telecommunication operators have had to transmit caller location data to the emergency centre or emergency response centre, depending on the country. Since 2006, at the initiative of Telecommunications Commissioner Viviane Reding, the EU Commission has initiated EU-legislation infringement proceedings, e.g. against 14 Member States due to the lack of location data.

In 2009, 112 became the official European emergency number. One year earlier, 11 February was declared the common European 112 Day, in accordance with the Finnish model. On this date, the intention is to make the EU common emergency number 112 known in all Member States through various communication measures. There are major country-specific differences within the EU in the functioning and awareness of the emergency number and the languages in which emergency callers can be served.

The 112 number identified as a pan-European emergency number is also used as an emergency number in other countries, including Asia. The number was originally selected as an emergency number as early as 1972. The reason for the choice of number was its clarity and ease of use. By using the numbers at the beginning of the number menu, the selection is accelerated, and using two different numbers instead of one significantly reduces error calls. The three-digit series is also easy to remember.

The Emergency Response Centre Agency was established in 2001, after which various methods have been developed for the reception of emergency notifications, including the 112 Suomi mobile app, the emergency text message to the number 112 and reporting emergencies in Finnish sign language, which is currently being tested.

In Finland, emergency response centre services have been developed stately for 20 years. The Emergency Response Centre Agency was established in 2001, after which various methods have been developed for the reception of emergency notifications, including the 112 Suomi mobile app, the emergency text message to the number 112 and reporting emergencies in Finnish sign language, which is currently being tested. Many other reforms have been carried out along the way, but the most significant is the networked operating model introduced in Finland, which makes it possible to receive emergency notifications and alert the authorities from all six emergency response centres in mainland Finland.

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1972 – The number 112 becomes a general emergency number around the world due to its ease of use and clarity. The three-digit series is easy to remember.

1983 – The national emergency number 000 is introduced in Finland and general emergency response centres are established. Prior to this, the inter-municipal fire emergency response centres introduced in late the 1950s only provided fire and rescue services. There were designated numbers for other services.

1991 – The European emergency number 112 is presented at the EU Commission to supplement national emergency numbers and make emergency services available in all EU Member States. In July, the European Union decides to introduce the common emergency number 112.

1993 – Finland introduces the EU common emergency number 112. 

1997 – Finland celebrates its first 112 Day and raises awareness of the EU common emergency number 112.

1998 – Under EU rules, Member States must ensure that all users of fixed and mobile phones can call 112 free of charge.

2001 – The Finnish Emergency Response Centres Act enters into force on 1 January. At the same time, a new government agency called the Emergency Response Centre Agency is established, tasked with receiving and forwarding emergency notifications.

2002 – The emergency number 112 becomes mandatory for all EU Member States.

2008 – In February, Europe celebrates its first common 112 Day. The European Commission, together with the European Parliament and European Council, has declared 11 February as European 112 Day to broaden recognition of the emergency number 112 across the EU. In June, the EU Commission publishes a website for 112 (ec.europa.eu/112), containing information for travellers in the EU in all official EU languages.

2009 – From February, 112 becomes the official European emergency number.

2011 – In Finland, the police's own emergency number 10022 is connected to 112.

2015 – In June, the Emergency Response Centre Agency introduces the 112 Suomi mobile app. When calling the emergency number 112 via the app, the location of the emergency call is automatically forwarded to the emergency response centre.

2017 – Emergencies can also be reported by sending a text message to 112. The service requires pre-registration.

2019 – The Emergency Response Centre Agency fully deploys a new emergency response centre information system that enables a networked operating model in the provision of emergency response centre services. When calling the emergency number 112, emergency calls can be received at any of the six emergency response centres in mainland Finland.

2021 – In June, Kela and the Emergency Response Centre Agency launch a pilot project to allow people to make emergency calls in Finnish sign language using the 112 Suomi mobile app.