Thursday, 14 March 2013

Emergency phone chaos in Spain

SPAIN You see an accident and call for an ambulance, but who do you call? One of the first numbers to come to mind might be 061, the emergency number for the ambulance service. Then you see that the driver is trapped behind the wheel and looks injured. Maybe an ambulance is not enough. The bomberos (fire  rescue service) number is ... (?) ... The right answer to the question is: call 112, which is the emergency co-ordination service, able to evaluate the situation as you describe it. 112 is the number to call (and the only one your mobile phone will allow you to use if you're out of range or credit), yet all over Spain there are still a whole series of three-digit numbers, most of which are neither familiar or identifiable with the service they are linked to. The most common of them are indeed emergency services, but a lot of them are merely public services and no use in an emergency.>>>
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A single European emergency number
Some years ago the EU proposed a single number for member states: 112, which could be used in any of those countries. Indeed it has its own Day: European 112 Day is on February 11. And around that date (we missed it this year, sorry) information campaigns bloom all over - though, frankly, the blooms must have died very quickly because we, and many more, haven't seen a word yet unless you count a couple of recent references that prompted this item.

Much of the chaos we mention in the headline arises from the fact that many of the regional governments in the country -and we concentrate on Andalucía- do not promote 112 much at all. Whether this is a reluctance to accept EU directives under false regional pride, or simply a case of misogyny, is difficult to say.

A recent poll by the EU's own polling enterprise, Eurobarómetro (in Spanish, and presumably Eurobarometer in English) says that 85% of Spaniards will use 112 in an emergency. This ostensibly proves the awareness level of that number among a large proportion of the population.

What about the other 15%, you ask. Therein lies the conundrum.

What happens if you discover a burglary in progress? The 112 may not be fast enough to get the police or Guardia around in time. So you call your Local Police (092) or the National Police (091) or the Guardia Civil directly (062). If the burglars are setting fire to the house, you call the bomberos directly (080), right? Right. Unless you choose 112, which you may choose not to do when you read below.

And if you see domestic violence, or are the victim of it, you call 016, which is also a number remembered by most, largely because there is a law that obliges any news item related to domestic violence to give out that number, so it often (alas) appears on television.

Then there are some non-emergency three-digit numbers including 060 for information on the central administration of Andalucía.

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