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Emergency calls from mobiles

Calling the Emergency Call Service from a mobile phone: FAQs

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.

If you do not know your exact location, using the Emergency+ smartphone app to call Triple Zero (000) can assist.  The app provides you with your GPS co-ordinates which you can tell the emergency call-taker, allowing them to pinpoint your location. The Emergency+ app is available to download free of charge from the Google Play store and Apple App.  

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

When calling Triple Zero 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.

However, the accuracy of this information can be affected by factors such as obstructions to mobile reception or the number of mobile phone towers nearby. It should be noted that mobile location will only be possible where network coverage is present.

The Emergency+ smartphone app addresses this issue by using your smartphone’s GPS functionality to provide your exact location which you can verbally provide to the emergency call-taker. The Emergency+ app is available to download free of charge from the Google Play store and Apple App store.

It would be advisable for people travelling into areas where mobile coverage may be poor or unavailable, to investigate carrying an alternative personal safety device. In remote areas, for example, a Personal Locator Beacon (or EPIRB - Emergency Position-Indicating Radio Beacon) may be a suitable option.

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

Using the Emergency+ smartphone app to call Triple Zero means you don’t have to know how to find the relevant GPS data on your phone.  The app presents your location on your screen automatically, so you can provide it verbally to the emergency call-taker.  When activated, the built-in accessibility features will describe aloud what appears on-screen, so you can use the app without seeing it.  The Emergency+ app is available to download free of charge from the Google Play store and Apple App store.  

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.

Are there advantages in using the Emergency+ smartphone app to call Triple Zero (000)?

The most significant advantage of using the Emergency+ smartphone app to call Triple Zero is that if you do not know your exact location, it uses the existing GPS functionality of your smartphone to enable you to provide emergency call-takers with your location information as determined by your smartphone. 

The Emergency+ app also contains the contact numbers and a short explanation of when to call non-emergency numbers such as the Police Assistance Line (131 444) and the SES national number (132 500).  This is to help you to dial the correct number and reduce the number of calls to Triple Zero that should be directed to another service. 

The Emergency+ app is available to download free of charge from the Google Play store and Apple App store.  

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: 11 June 2014

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