Suppose: your deep fryer catches fire, your mom falls down the stairs or you see someone breaking into the house of your neighbour. You call an emergency number because you urgently need the help of the fire department, a medical team or the police. An operator at the other side of the line asks you a number of questions, tells you what to do and informs the necessary emergency services to help you.
But what happens when you call an emergency number when you don’t need urgent assistance? How often does this happen? What are the consequences?
Emergency numbers in Belgium
In Belgium there are two important emergency numbers for urgent assistance:
- 112 for an ambulance and the fire department
- 101 for the police
Moreover 112 is the European emergency number. When you travel in Europe, then you can call 112 for the fire department, a medical team and the police.
What do you say when you call an emergency number?
When you need to call an emergency number, you often are in a stressful situation. Nevertheless it is important that you can provide the operator with precise and correct information and that you can answer his questions. This is what the operator wants to hear from you:
- the exact location
- what has happened
- whether there are wounded persons
- who you are
What is the difference between an urgent and a non-urgent call? Some examples.
You can call 112 or 101 when you urgently need the fire department, a medical team of the police. When it’s not urgent, you better call the local fire department, your general practitioner (or outside the hours the permanency of the general practitioners) or the local police. There also are other emergency numbers for specific problems, such as the suicide line or the treatment centre for poisoning cases.
When can you call?
- When a building, forest or car is on fire.
- In case of a serious accident with wounded or dead persons.
- When you are the victim or witness of a fight.
- When you see someone break into a house.
When can’t you call?
- To see whether the 101 or 112 really works.
- To make a joke.
- When you need general information, such as someone’s telephone number or address.
Some more tips:
- Calmly wait for the answer. Don’t hang up, because then you will find yourself again at the bottom of the waiting list.
- When you called an emergency number by accident, then don’t hang up, but tell the operator that everything is fine. This way the operator is sure that there is no emergency.
What happens when you don’t need urgent assistance and you do call an emergency number?
People call for the most different reasons to an emergency centre: because the really need urgent assistance, but also to order a cab or by accident because the keyboard of someone’s mobile phone was not locked. In Belgium one out of four calls to an emergency centre isn’t a real emergency call.
When you call the emergency services without a valid reason, the operators in the emergency centres can’t take the calls of people who really are in distress. These people therefore need to wait longer for an answer and thus also for the emergency services. Therefore people who call the emergency centres on purpose for fun expose themselves to legal action, which may lead to criminal prosecution.
Do you want to get help in time when you need it? Only call 112 or 101 when you really need urgent assistance of the fire department, a medical team or the police. In other words “Emergency calls: no nonsense”.