Report urges for emergency services to adapt to smartphone technologies

A report by the Institute of Engineering and Technology (IET) is calling for changes in the way the emergency services process ‘999’ calls to better reflect the digital age, as more people use messaging or social media to communicate rather than telephone calls.

The ‘Contacting Emergency Services in the Digital Age’ report argues that the emergency services need to acknowledge a move away from landlines to smart phones and from telephone calls to alternative communication mediums.

The report suggests that the creation of a new cross-platform, data-based emergency service with a standardised customer interface should be a priority.

The establishment of new digital services could save lives and allow messages to be processed so that those in need receive a faster, and better response at what would likely be a lower cost.

The IET is liaising with government representatives, the emergency services, BT, Ofcom and the mobile phone industry to best collaborate in order to introduce the report’s recommendations.

Professor Will Stewart, chair of the IET’s Communications Policy Panel, says: “Communications has changed drastically since the ‘999’ service was designed in 1937 – so there is a critical need to update the service.

Ofcom figures show, for example, that 94% of communications from 12-15 year olds is text based. Given that young people are statistically more likely to be victims of crime or accidents, it is a concern that making a voice call to contact the emergency services is not something that would feel natural to them.”

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