Poland faces legal action in the European Court of Justice because an EU-wide emergency services number does not work properly here – hampering rescue services and putting lives at risk. The number – 112 – was introduced in 2003 to run alongside existing national emergency numbers in every European Union country. A report by Poland’s Supreme Auditing Chamber, published this week, found that flaws in the system were costing rescuers vital time.
The report said it was not currently possible for rescue services in Poland to get a precise location for emergency callers. Instead, they had to search an area of several kilometres to find accident victims.
A statement from the European Commission confirmed that every EU citizen must be able to reach emergency services free of charge by dialling 112 from any phone, anywhere in Europe. The statement continued: “In addition, 112 calls must be appropriately answered and handled. In practice, this means that the quality of response to emergency calls should be the same, irrespective of whether 112 or a national emergency number is used.
“EU countries must also ensure that information about the location of the person calling 112 is made available to emergency services so that they can find accident victims quickly. The ability to locate the caller in case of an emergency may be of great significance if the person is unable to state his or her location, which can happen in particular when calling from mobile phones or while travelling abroad.”
The EC has demonstrated its willingness to prosecute countries which do not meet the standards – including Poland. A previous case relating to Poland’s poor 112 caller location service was closed in 2008. But with The Supreme Auditing Chamber claiming that the service could still be flawed by the start of the 2012 European Championships in Poland and Ukraine, further legal action may not be far off.