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Emergency calls from mobiles

Calling Triple Zero from a mobile

Is calling Triple Zero (000) from a mobile phone reliable?

Mobile phones enable individuals to call the Emergency Call Service from most places in Australia. However, the nature of mobile handsets and mobile networks means that in some circumstances these calls are not as reliable as calls from the fixed network.

Problems that may be experienced when making a call from a mobile phone to the Emergency Call Service include:

  • bad reception, making it difficult for the emergency service operators to understand the caller
  • a remote location may result in limited or no network coverage being available
  • running out of battery and
  • a lack of precise location information about the call.

Special roaming capabilities of the vast majority of mobile phones when calling 000 mean that when you are out of your service provider's coverage area but are in another carrier's mobile phone network coverage area, your call will be carried on the other carrier’s network. However, it is important to realise that if there is no mobile coverage, you will not be able to reach the Emergency Call Service via a mobile phone, and alternative devices, such as personal location beacons (PLBs) should be considered. PLBs are equipped to send a distress signal with location details on a dedicated radio frequency that communicates with Search and Rescue operators.

How will the operator know where I am, if I call Triple Zero (000) from a mobile phone?

When calling 000 from a mobile phone you should be prepared to provide as much information as possible to emergency service operators about the location of the emergency.

If you are unable to identify your whereabouts, mobile carriers can provide emergency services with location information in most cases, but this may be affected by:

  • obstructions to mobile reception
  • the number of mobile phone towers nearby
  • network coverage.

When travelling into areas where mobile coverage may be poor or unavailable it is advisable to carry a Personal Locator Beacon (or EPIRB – Emergency Position-Indicating Radio Beacon).

If I have GPS on my phone can emergency services use that to locate me?

Australia’s mobile networks cannot automatically transmit GPS data from a handset to an emergency service operator.

If you do have a GPS enabled handset, you can verbally convey your estimated geographic position to emergency services and this may assist them to locate you.

GPS applications are battery intensive. You will not be able to call 000 if you have a flat battery.

How do I know what areas have mobile coverage?

Mobile phone service providers have coverage maps available from their point of sale locations, and upon request. All the carriers (Optus, Telstra and VHA) have good coverage in the major population centres, but in regional areas only one or two of these are likely to provide sufficient network coverage.

In these areas, if your mobile phone service provider does not have network coverage for normal phone use, or to enable a 000 call to be made, a call to 000 will be carried if another carrier has sufficient network coverage in the area.

Can I call 112 from a mobile phone?

Yes, 112 is a secondary emergency number that can be dialled from mobile phones in Australia.

Special capabilities, including roaming, once only existed when dialling 112, however mobile phones manufactured since January 2002 also provide these capabilities when dialling Triple Zero (000) to access the emergency call service. It is important to realise that if there is no mobile coverage on any network, you will not be able to reach the emergency call service via a mobile phone, regardless of which number you dialled.

Will a 112 call be carried by satellite if there is no mobile coverage?

No. Satellite phones use a different technology and your mobile phone will not be able to access a satellite network.

If there is no mobile coverage, you will not be able to reach the Emergency Call Service via a mobile phone.

Can I call 112 from any type of service?

No. Dialling 112 is only works for digital mobile phones.

Can I call 911 from my mobile phone in an emergency?

911 is used by emergency services in the United States. Not all mobile phones can access Australia’s Emergency Call Service by dialling 911. You should use Australia’s primary emergency service number, Triple Zero (000) or the secondary emergency service number of 112 which can only be dialled on a digital mobile phone. While dialling 911 from some mobile phones may provide access to the Emergency Call Service, such access is not a formal feature of Australia’s telecommunications system and should not be relied upon in an emergency.

Can I send a text message to 000?

No. It is not currently possible to contact 000 or 112 using the SMS text facility on your mobile phone.

Can I call Triple Zero (000) from a locked handset?

You can call 000 without having to unlock the keypad or key-in a security-protection Personal Identification Number (PIN). However, you should check your handset manual for information regarding emergency call dialling.

Last updated: 16 October 2013

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