Emergency Communications

Access to emergency services is a right of all citizens and CEPT/ECC is working to improve access through developing appropriate policies on numbering harmonisation, on the provision of accurate and reliable caller location information for calls to the emergency services and ensuring that public safety answering points can contact each other across national borders.

The ability to initiate an emergency communication to summon help when needed is a right of all citizens that is enshrined in national and European legislation. Anyone who has ever had to make a call to the emergency services will know too well the feeling of time standing still. In situations where it is a matter of life or death every second counts. When that call is made seeking emergency assistance, it is vital that the call taker clearly understands the nature of the assistance required and is able to determine the location of the caller quickly. Location must be established with a high degree of confidence in the shortest possible period of time.

In most cases callers will have the capacity to verbally communicate their whereabouts but there will always be exceptions. In situations where emergency callers are incapacitated through injury or shock, where they are unfamiliar with their surroundings or where there is a language barrier, other methods of determining location must be available and the ECC is well aware that modern technology provides the solution. The effective use of these technologies will ensure that help can be dispatched to the right location in the shortest possible period of time.

Traditionally, it was possible for the emergency services to rely on the installation address associated with a fixed telephone number to determine caller location. However, as 65-70% of emergency calls in Europe are now made from mobile devices the caller location challenge becomes a little more complex. Emergency calls may also be made from the Internet, which poses an additional location challenge.

The ECC’s Working Group on Numbering and Networks (WG NaN) established Project Team Emergency Services (PT ES, now NaN3 - Emergency Communications) in 2013 with the sole objective of developing ECC Report 225 on “Establishing Criteria for the Accuracy and Reliability of the Caller Location Information” in support of Emergency Services. ECC Report 225 also identified other aspects of emergency services communications that required further study. As a consequence, the ECC broadened the scope of its activities in the field of emergency services. The revised ECC Strategic Plan for 2015-2020 sets an action for WG NaN to "study relevant aspects of emergency services communications and provide support and advice to European emergency services stakeholders where appropriate".

The overall objective of this work is to positively contribute through the publication of appropriate deliverables, as one stakeholder in emergency services communications, to an overall programme for improvement aimed at addressing the particular challenges of calls originating on mobile networks, as well as the challenges associated with calls from fixed and IP-based networks. ECC Reports 301 (Provision of Caller Location Information from Private/Corporate Networks), published in 2019, addresses this latter subject in detail.

As part of this broader remit, the ECC published ECC Report 255 in November 2016 which analyses the implementation of Assisted-Global Navigation Satellite System (A-GNSS) on a harmonised basis across Europe as a first step in a multi-step plan towards improving caller location. ECC Reports 300 (A country-by-country analysis on defining PSAP-side statistics to quantify the effectiveness of emergency caller location information received for mobile calls) , published in 2019, also adresses some of the broader issues associated with emergency services communications.

The ECC’s work in this area requires close cooperation and consultation with the emergency services stakeholders throughout Europe including the national emergency services authorities, public safety answering points (PSAPs), police, ambulance and fire services, network operators and network and handset equipment vendors.

From a numbering perspective, the ECC has also investigating the impact on national numbering resources associated with the rollout of pan-European eCall.

eCall is an initiative intended to bring rapid assistance to motorists involved in a collision anywhere in Europe. It works using in-vehicle sensors which when activated - for example, by deployment of the vehicle’s airbags - automatically call the pan-European Emergency Number 112. From 31 March 2018, all new type cars sold in Europe must have eCall capability.

eCall has all the characteristics of a mobile service and its success is dependent on good geographical coverage and the ability to roam across national and international networks. Therefore each eCall device requires a valid SIM card, and consequently, an E.212 International Mobile Subscriber Identity (IMSI) number - for network authentication and registration - and an E.164 telephone number for making and receiving calls.

The key question for regulators and policy makers in the context of numbering for eCall is whether the traditional approach to numbering on a national basis is suitable. Can national numbering arrangements cope with potentially millions of eCall and other M2M devices being assigned numbering resources in one European country for connectivity in another? Is an international solution a better approach in the long term?

The ECC held a public workshop on Numbering for eCall on 31 January 2017. The workshop focused on the challenges and solutions of deploying eCall right across the supply chain from the installation of eCall devices and SIM modules in vehicles to the activation of those devices throughout Europe while considering the implications for numbering. As well as providing an opportunity for participants to exchange views on all aspects of eCall, the discussions provided further light on determining the best approaches to adopt in order to avoid fragmentation of national numbering plans and ensure sustainability in the long term. Following the workshop, the ECC adopted Recommendation (17)04 on Numbering for eCall.

Further information:

The above-mentioned deliverables are available for download at the ECC Documentation Database. Interested stakeholders are encouraged to consult the document for further details.

For more information on the work of NaN3 - Emergency Communications, please visit the NaN3 group webpage.

Also see ECC Newsletter Articles:

Updated: 08 February 2023, 10:23