Brussels, 25 July 2003
Commission pushes for rapid deployment of location enhanced 112 emergency services
The European Commission has today adopted a Recommendation that will help the emergency services locate people who call them using the pan-European emergency number 112 that can be dialled in all EU Member States. The efficiency of emergency interventions can be greatly increased by systems providing automatic transfer of location information to emergency centres for both fixed and mobile callers. The Recommendation, which is based on extensive consultation with network operators and emergency authorities, proposes concrete guidelines for setting up such systems.
The share of emergency calls emanating from mobile networks is estimated to be 50% today in the EU and still rising. Although statistics vary widely, conservative estimates indicate that EU-wide, each year over 1 million emergency callers are unable to indicate their location, whilst in several million emergencies, valuable time is lost because wrong or inaccurate location information is provided. Moreover, the widespread use of mobile phones also leads to a very high occurrence of multiple calls referring to the same incident.
All three problems can be addressed with a system forwarding accurate location information of fixed and mobile callers automatically to emergency service centres. With this information, the centres can cross check oral information given by callers, send intervention teams even in cases where callers are unable to describe where they are and separate multiple calls from the same incident site from calls from other (new) incidents and organise the dispatch of intervention teams accordingly. This will allow emergency services to manage their capacity much more efficiently and to shorten response times, thereby increasing the chances of survival and recovery for victims of accidents and crime.
From 25 July 2003, under the Universal Service Directive 2002/22/EC, fixed and mobile network operators are required to provide caller location information to emergency service centres responding to '112' calls, in a manner best suited to the national organisation of emergency systems and within the technological possibilities of the networks. This requirement is an exception to the general rule under EU data protection legislation that caller location information may only be transferred to others with the consent of the user concerned. The exception is justified because in emergency situations the protection of life and health is more important than the protection of privacy.
The Recommendation adopted today proposes a coordinated approach to translate the legal requirements into concrete measures. The Commission wants to ensure that currently available location information and emerging location technologies are made available to emergency services as soon as they offer sufficient reliability. (Within current mobile networks, some location information is already available, and with new technologies this information is becoming more precise, pinpointing the exact whereabouts of a user within a few metres.) Where possible, systems should be based on automatic forwarding of location information to emergency centres. Moreover, Member States should ensure interconnectivity and interoperability between their networks handling emergency calls within the European Union, which is especially important in border areas where mobile networks do not exactly match territorial frontiers and emergency calls can be picked up by networks at the other side of the border. The proposed harmonised approach is also aimed at minimising the overall cost of implementation to all parties, through increased co-operation and the development of common solutions.
The systems will be implemented progressively as available caller location technologies become more sophisticated. By the end of 2004 the Commission will take stock of progress made and assess whether further action at EU level will be needed.