February 11 is the European 112 Day, to raise awareness of the European emergency number. But what constitutes an emergency and when should one dial 112?
In Luxembourg, half of all emergency 112 calls are made in instances where there seems to be no emergency, explains Christopher Schuh, the Head of Department at the Grand-Ducal Fire and Rescue Corps of Luxembourg (CGDIS), in an interview.
"There are people that call to check information about on-call services of hospitals, pharmacies, veterinarians, etc. This is information that one can easily find on 112.lu."
More efficient through new technologies
New technologies would allow emergency services to provide help more efficiently and more quickly. Christopher Schuh continues:
"The 112 team has an operations management system at their disposal which collects relevant information from the emergency call. Apart from questions like "what happened?" emergency medical call operators are assisted by software that helps them ask the right questions. To gather the whereabouts of callers, we have new methods to quickly and precisely locate a person as well."
When the police's emergency number 113 recently experienced an outage, the emergency number 112 took over calls directed at the police. This procedure is in place in the case where one of the two emergency numbers is experiencing a disruption in order to ensure a quick response. According to Christopher Schuh, this recent situation worked well. While having more phones might have been preferable, the response was still manageable.
Who are the emergency medical call operators ?
On average, an emergency call takes 7 seconds to be answered. The CGDIS workers also work round the clock ready for dispatch.
"The team is composed of five operators, including professional firefighters who are fully trained for on-site operations and have the necessary additional qualifications to support operators at 112. Additionally, there is a health officer, who is a nurse, available 24 hours in the emergency call center. The health officer can bring expertise to specific emergency situations and ask the right questions in cases that may not necessarily fit standard procedures and require a more tailored approach."
In the cases where a larger dispatch is needed, additional emergency workers can be assembled fairly quickly. On the other hand, in cases where a weather warning has been issued, the team can adjust itself adequately for any potential emergencies in advance. This was the case this past January when weather warnings were issued regarding ice rain.