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  • Writer's pictureOak Digital Solutions

The 112 Emergency Telephone Service

This month instead of the doom and gloom of scams I have an example of digital technology that could potentially save a life. Mobile phones have become an indispensable tool in our daily lives, serving many purposes beyond just communication. Yet one crucial feature they offer remains unknown by many.

The 112 emergency telephone service serves as a single point of contact for emergency assistance across the European Union, including the United Kingdom. Unlike traditional emergency numbers such as 999, which is specific to the UK, 112 is universal and can be dialled anywhere within the EU on a mobile phone.

But more than that, 112 is a very special number because it's pre-programmed into every SIM card and mobile phone, and it initiates a call in a completely different way to the normal calls that you make on a mobile phone.


If you are in a location that doesn’t appear to have a signal from your own network and you dial 112 your mobile phone will automatically try to connect to any other networks that are available in the area if yours is not strong enough. In the UK, there are four mobile operators that own the mobile network infrastructure. Known collectively as the ‘big four’, they are Vodafone, EE, O2 and Three.

There are numerous other mobile phone providers that are called mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs). Instead of owning their own mobile infrastructure, they operate by renting space (piggybacking) off the big four’s networks.

When you dial 112 your mobile phone will try all the big four networks until it finds one strong enough to make an emergency call. Even if a network appears to be busy (when you get that continuous pulse tone or your phone says, “network busy”) the network will attempt to prioritize your 112 call and override the busy network.

Dialling 112 will also override most mobile phone security systems which means that you can usually dial 112 on someone else’s phone even if you don’t know their pin. If your phone is a pay-as-you-go phone and it has no credit left it should still dial 112 and, in some modern smartphones, even if there isn't a SIM card inside you can still dial 112 to connect you to the emergency services. Calls to 112 are free.

Not only is 112 available everywhere in the European Union it is also available in America, Australia, Canada, India and Pakistan. In fact, there are 70 countries worldwide where it's available.


When you call 112 wait for one minute for it to connect. If it doesn’t then it’s possible that there’s only one cellular mast in the area and your head is blocking the signal to your phone. If on your first attempt, you don’t get through turn 180 degrees and try again. If after two attempts, you still can’t get through on 112 try to send a text message to 112 instead. If you are anywhere in the United Kingdom the emergency services stand a good chance of getting it.


There are two reasons for that: A text is a tiny packet of information that takes just a few milliseconds to transmit so even if you only get a signal intermittently it should still go through. Even if a network is really congested text messages use a different bandwidth which has a lot more capacity than the one used for voice calls. Ensure that your text details who you are, where you are, what the incident is and how many people are hurt. Wait three minutes to get a text back from the emergency services.


To use the text service on 112 you have to be pre-registered. To do this just create a text with the word “register” and send it to 112 – it’s perfectly safe to do this. You should get an automatic reply. You need to read all of that message and then reply with the word “yes”. You should then get a “success” reply telling you that your mobile has been registered and that’s it….you’re all set up!About Me

I'm Chris Walton, I live in Marnhull, and I can help with many of the problems that people experience with personal and home technology. I have over 35 years' experience teaching people of all ages and all skill levels to use a wide variety of gadgetry and software both in the workplace and at home. I provide patient and friendly training carried out at your own pace, in your own home and at your convenience.  

You can find out more at  or on my Oak Digital Solutions Facebook Page.

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