SMS for deaf and hearing impaired persons and for persons with a speech impediment

When you are deaf or hearing impaired, or when you have a speech impediment, this makes it more difficult if not impossible to contact the emergency services yourself through a normal phone call. Therefore the Federal Public Services Public Health and Home Affairs and the integrated police have made sure that the emergency centres can also be reached by SMS. This service is free and reserved for deaf and hearing impaired persons and for persons with a speech impediment. It is not possible to send an SMS to the traditional emergency numbers 112, 100 and 101, but only to specific numbers that can be requested by e-mail or SMS.

Are you deaf or hearing impaired or do you have a speech impediment? Please read below how you can request the specific number and how the SMS service works. You can request the specific numbers as from 15 February 2015.

Emergency calls by means of SMS messages for deaf and hearing impaired persons and for persons with a speech impediment 

An SMS to the emergency services is free and is possible 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

It is not possible to send a text message to the numbers 112, 100 and 101.  These are reserved for voice calls.  

To obtain the specific numbers, you can send the word "contact", either by e-mail to sms@ibz.fgov.be or by SMS to 8842. This is a free service. 

Next, you'll receive two emergency numbers. One to alert the medical assistance  and the firebrigade, the other to alert the police. 

For example, when you are confronted with a fire or an accident, you have to contact the fire brigade or the medical assistance, but when you are confronted with a crime, a theft, a big fight, etc., you have to contact the police. 

How do I send and receive SMS messages?

The emergency services do not exactly know where the victim is located. Therefore it is important to be precise in the SMS and to mention for example city and/or area, address, house number, apartment number, the name on the bell, floor, ... Or if you are in a train station, where are you exactly? Which platform? If you are on a motorway, say the number of motorway you are on, what direction you are going, indicate the nearest kilometre post.

Do not forget to tell who you are.

Keep your cell phone with you and stay calm.

The emergency services will send you a first SMS telling you that your SMS has been received. Then they will ask for additional information. Then you can give even more information, such as specifying whether the incident is a fire, a fight, somebody who fainted, a burglary, an accident, a blow to the head, major bleeding, ...

Keep your mobile phone near you and try to stay calm.

Emergency services will send you a second confirmation to say that they have received your next message and inform you that the ambulance, police or fire fighters have been warned and are on their way.

Keep your mobile phone close and stay calm.

Attention, now follows some important information.

1. Pay attention that your SMS is not too long. It is possible that your phone converts the sms automatically to an MMS. The emergency services are not able to receive MMS messages.
2. You can send your SMS from a Belgian SIM card, but not from a foreign SIM card. The emergency services will not receive your message.
3. You can send your SMS from a Belgian phone number, but not from a foreign phone number. The emergency services will not receive your message.
4. If you send an SMS to the emergency services by mistake, send a second SMS to report your mistake.

If you send an SMS to the emergency services out of curiosity or to play a joke, it is possible that you will be exposed to legal proceedings. 

If you want more information or if you have comments or questions, you can send an e-mail to feedbacksms@ibz.fgov.be.

When you request the specific numbers by SMS or e-mail, you declare on your word of honour that you cannot contact the emergency centres yourself by phone. When you are not deaf or hearing impaired, or when you do not have a speech impediment, a phone call remains the only way to contact the emergency centres! Then you cannot send an SMS to the emergency centres!

If you have questions or when you recently sent an emergency SMS, then you can send your questions, experiences or remarks to feedbacksms@ibz.fgov.be.

Do not test the emergency numbers! Persons using SMS "to play jokes" risk legal action to be taken against them.


Can you also send an MMS to the emergency centres? 

You cannot send an MMS. The emergency centres can only be reached by SMS. Therefore you should pay attention that your mobile phone or smartphone does not make an MMS message from a long SMS message when you contact the emergency centres. 


Why cannot everybody send an SMS to the emergency centres?

If you can reach the emergency centres through a normal phone call, you should not use an SMS! With the oral hearing the operator can more quickly anticipate the answers. Moreover, through a normal phone call the operators can give medical guidance such as resuscitation instructions. 


Can you send an SMS when you are travelling abroad?

When you are abroad you cannot send an SMS for assistance to the specific numbers. You will receive an error message. 


Can you send an SMS with every apparatus or subscription? 

Sending an SMS to the emergency numbers is free, but your mobile phone needs to have a Belgian SIM card. 


Why can't the emergency numbers 112, 100 and 101 be reached through SMS? 

The emergency centres can be reached through SMS by means of specific numbers (not 112, 100 and 101) because this is a first phase. In a next phase we provide that the traditional emergency numbers 112, 100 and 101 could also be reached. 


Can the emergency numbers still be reached by fax?

The emergency numbers 112, 100 and 101 can also still be reached by fax. 


Is it a bad thing if I send an SMS to the specific number for urgent medical assistance instead of the number for police assistance?

There are fixed procedures for when an SMS for police assistance arrives at a control room for urgent medical assistance and assistance of the fire brigades, or the other way round. Yet some time can pass as one control room needs to transfer information to the other. If you only need police assistance, then use the specific number for police assistance. 


Are SMS messages kept by the emergency centres? 

The time, date, location and information of the messages are kept. The operators are bound by confidentiality. When you send an SMS to the emergency numbers, this SMS can be kept. These can be checked again by the responsible persons of the emergency centres so that people in distress can get even better assistance. That is why your messages can be kept for a year.

This is stated in article 125, § 1, 3° and article 128 of the law of 13 June 2005 regarding the electronic communication.


Can I pass on the requested emergency numbers to other deaf or hearing impaired persons or persons with a speech impediment?

We prefer that persons belonging to the target group request the specific numbers as much as possible themselves.  


Can I use the emergency numbers with a mobile phone that is not mine to send a text message to the emergency numbers?

If you are deaf or hearing impaired or if you have a speech impediment, then you can send a text message to the emergency numbers with whatever mobile phone available, thus also with a mobile phone you are borrowing temporarily from someone else. The operators in the emergency centres treat all text messages they receive.