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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 Triple Zero (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 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.

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. You should be aware that many GPS applications are very battery intensive which may result in you not being able to call Triple Zero (000) at all.

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 Triple Zero (000) call to be made, a call to Triple Zero (000) will be carried if another carrier has sufficient network coverage in the area.

Can I call 112 from a mobile phone?

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 technology which is different from that used by land-based mobile phones, and your mobile phone will not be able to access a satellite network. 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.

To gain access to a satellite network you will need to obtain a satellite phone and a subscription to a satellite service that provides coverage in Australia. Satellite based networks are generally designed to provide coverage throughout Australia and, in particular, to places outside the coverage areas of land-based mobile phone networks.

Can I call 112 from any type of service?

No. Dialling 112 from a fixed line telephone in Australia will not connect you to the Emergency Call Service. It is only available from 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 Triple Zero (000)?

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

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

From the vast majority of mobile handsets you can call Triple Zero (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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