People seeking immediate assistance for an urgent situation may not be required to dial different emergency numbers for support from next fiscal year. The government is mulling over introducing a single emergency number to be used to call the police, fire, ambulance and other services.
The single number will be similar to 911 in the US and 999 in the UK. As part of the preparation, Nepal Telecommunications Authority (NTA) in the current fiscal year has included a plan to conduct a study on a modality to implement the integrated emergency number.
At present, there are separate emergency numbers — 100 for police, 101 for fire brigade, 102 for ambulance, 103 for traffic police, 104 for Children Search Coordination Centre, 105 for Nepali Army-Kathmandu and 106 for the military police, among others.
However, these numbers are not accessible from the network of all six telecom companies, mainly the small companies. This is against the regulatory provision, which requires access from all networks to these emergency numbers free of cost for the callers.
The single emergency number has been planned under a national emergency telecommunications contingency plan to be prepared by NTA in the current fiscal year.
“Our plan is to implement a single emergency number and route calls of customers to agencies concerned depending on the type of emergency,” said Achyuta Nanda Mishra, assistant spokesperson for NTA. He said that a task force will come up with a modality to ensure access to the emergency number from the network of all the operators.
The telecom regulator of India had also recommended the Indian government to fix 112 as the single emergency number of the country in April this year. Reports said that customers there will be able to make calls on 112 from their mobiles or landline phones even if their outgoing call facility has been barred or the service is temporarily suspended.
As the number of mobile subscribers exceeds those subscribing to landline services, the emergency number has also been envisaged to respond to text based reports by customers. NTA officials said that the type of facilities to be included for callers will be known after the task force completes its study.
They said that as per the international trend, the chances of introducing a three-digit integrated emergency number is high and existing emergency numbers such as 100, 101, 102, 103, 104 and 105 could be used as secondary emergency numbers.
A senior official of Nepal Telecom said that making the single emergency number accessible to the network of all companies could be a challenging task for the government as it requires equal effort from the telecom companies and stakeholder agencies handling emergencies. The official added that the introduction and implementation of the number also depends on how the government plans to address the issue of the required fund for handling the integrated system by involving multiple stakeholders.