In India, we have to call on separate phone numbers to get in touch with police, fire brigade or hospitals in case of an emergency. But we have to wake up to the urgency of having a single emergency response number on the lines of America's 911, Britain's 999 and Australia's 000. This number may be used in case of any emergency police, fire or ambulance.
The emergency telephone number is a special case in the country's telephone number plan. In the past, calls to the emergency telephone number were often routed over special dedicated circuits. Though with the advent of electronic exchanges these calls are now often mixed with ordinary telephone traffic, they still may be able to access circuits that other traffic cannot. Often the system is set up so that once a call is made to an emergency telephone number, it must be answered. Should the caller abandon the call, the line may still be held until the emergency service answers and releases the call.
The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India
(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 especially when there are various government departments involved in handling different types of emergencies.
In fact, the current emergency response system in India is not appropriate and it has been observed that people call up emergency number, normally police helpline 100, only to get diverted to other departments, which delays response time. Having a single emergency number will ensure that a person in distress does not get diverted to any other department or agency.
TRAI has invited public comments on making 100 or 108 as the single number for the entire country for various emergencies like fire or medical or accidents. Personally, I feel it should be 123. It is rhythmic with the children poetry, 123 run to the tree, easy to pronounce and are first three numeric digits.
The comments can also be sent by e-mail to email@example.com. Comments would be posted on TRAI’s website www.trai.gov.in.
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