To abolish different numbers for different emergency situations, the Government of India will soon provide a single number for all kinds of emergencies. The new emergency communication system will be based on the lines of that in countries like US, which follow the 911 code.
At present, there are different numbers for different types of emergencies, like 100 for police, 101 for fire and so on. Releasing the consultation paper on “Universal Single Number Based Integrated Emergency Communication and Response System (IECRS)”, Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has sought comments if 100 or 108 should be set as the single number in case of various emergencies like police, ambulance, fire brigade, civil defense and disaster management. TRAI is also taking comments if there should be primary or secondary access numbers defined for IECRS in the country on the lines of other countries.Countries like UK and Australia have secondary emergency response number. Calls from this number are again routed to primary response numbers in these countries. In view of the various shortcomings in the present system, there is a need to have a similar system in India too. Anyone can send their opinions to the TRAI by April 5, 2013.
TRAI is planning to bring a consultation paper in this connection soon to kick-start the process of having a single emergency helpline where a call centre will receive all distress calls and then accordingly alert departments or agencies concerned depending upon the type of emergency. But there are challenges in its implementation particularly when there are various government departments involved in handling different types of emergencies.
The regulator has asked all stakeholders, including mobile phone companies and consumer organisations to specify types of services that will be covered under a single emergency number. TRAI has also asked if emergency number access be allowed from inactive SIMs or handsets without SIMs, and how the funding requirement can be met for costs involved in implementation of IECRS. According to TRAI the single number system will be effective only if telcos install location-based services on all towers.
Earlier in January this year Telecom Minister Kapil Sibal has urged all Chief Ministers to launch the code ‘181’ in their states as a dedicated helpline for women in addition to the regular police helplines. Last month TRAI started the process of pan-India mobile number portability services.
I think its better late than never that TRAI has taken up the single number initiative as it is the need of the hour. I just hope it takes off soon rather than getting stuck in planning.
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