999, 112, 111, 101 or 105: Which number is best and for what?

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999/112 Emergencies Only

999 was the world’s first single digit emergency services number and has long been used in the UK for over 80 years. 999 was chosen for technical reasons (including less chances of being dialled mistakenly), but had another benefit. When dialling, the number 9 could easily be found on a old style rotary phone, as it was next to the dial stop.

112 was introduced to the UK in April 1995. It was standard across Europe in order to give a consistent number for travelers to call wherever they were within the EU.

999 is used in numerous other countries around the world including Bahrain, Bangladesh, Botswana, Ghana, Hong Kong, Kenya, Macau, Malaysia, Mauritius, Qatar, Ireland, Poland, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Eswatini, Trinidad, Tobago, UAE, Zimbabwe.

Using this one number in an emergency, you can call for the:-

  • Fire Service
  • Ambulance
  • Police
  • Coastguard
  • Mountain Rescue
  • Cave rescue
  • Quicksand search and rescue service in Morecambe Bay
  • Mine rescue
  • Bomb disposal

Both 999 and 112 connects to the same services, the emergency operator. Neither number has priority over the other. Once in contact with the emergency operator you will be asked “which service you require”, the operator can give assistance on this if unsure. If you require more than one service then request your primary service e.g Ambulance. You will then be connected to that operator and you can ask them to request and liaise with any other services or providers.

You can even ask for things such as presence of a national grid representative (such as incidents near high voltage systems). In the UK you can call FREE from any landline (if your work phone needs you to press a number for an outside line you may need to take this into account), payphone or mobile. Mobile phone networks have a feature called “emergency call roaming”. Should you lose your signal, your phone (that can see all networks signals) will attempt to utilise another network to get your emergency call through.

It may surprise you but you can also send a text message to 999 (however you must have pre-registered for this service). To pre-register, text the word ‘register’ to 999. The final surprise for most is that even in the UK you can use the American emergency services number – 911. Lots of people are now considering this as the primary emergency services number due to American television shows being so prominent in society.

111 Non-emergency number, NHS Direct

111. Let’s say you need advice on what to do with a non-urgent medical problem, they can help. If you require assistance with out of hours GP, Walk in centres, Dentists etc… they can help.

A trained advisor will ask you some questions about your condition, or the condition of the casualty and guide you from there.

101 Non-emergency number for the Police ONLY

101 is the only number that’s not free and has a charge. The charge is small, 15p per CALL.

Using this number you can report crime that is not an emergency e.g

  • Your property has been stolen or damaged
  • Your car has been stolen
  • You suspect drug related crimes in your street
  • Share information about crime in your area
  • Report Cars that have been “dumped”
  • Speak to the police

If you ever have any doubt as to the seriousness of a crime or injury, you should always ring 999. Don’t forget to teach your children about the emergency services number, what your address and post code is and what each service is for.

105 emergency power outage line

Many people don’t know they should contact their local electricity network operator if they have a power outage. They often mistakenly call the electricity supplier they pay their bills to such as British gas or Scottish power.

We hope this has been interesting and informative. Links below for a little more information

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