Is emergency calls management in crisis?

Only one number but a common goal

Europe continues to be a preferred target for terrorists. Furthermore, other unpredictable phenomena, such as natural disasters and plane or train crashes are also cause for concern among the population and public officials. As with any protective system, communications tools and the speed with which they can be used are essential in preventing an outbreak of panic, the spread of false information, or crises of confidence. Nevertheless, it took until the third anniversary of the terrible November attacks that affected the French capital for a decision to be reached on the European level.

Quick and efficient

This decision represents a real paradigm shift, because alerts will now be sent to citizens’ mobile phones. With no particular action on the part of users, and depending on geographic location, anyone who is located inside the defined zone will receive a direct notification as an alert. Everyone connected to a phone located within the alert zone will be notified of a situation and the risks that it entails. France, like all EU member states, now has a period of three-and-a-half years to develop the technology and a suitable system. Although one has already existed in the Netherlands since 2012, and Belgium has completed some tests such as a notification of a fire in Brussels last year.

Some other devices

First of all, let’s not forget that the relative failure of France’s SAIP system reflects the low number of app downloads by the population, with fewer than a million users. The French government has also recently sought to shift the alert system to social media, particularly via partnerships with Facebook and Twitter. But this gave rise to some protests and raises questions regarding the level of trust placed in these American giants with regard to personal data. Moreover, the objection can be raised that, during the recent floods in south-eastern France, the alert was not triggered in the affected area and wonder whether. Once again, it was a case of human error in the decision making process.

Cost and accessibility

The proposed new system will finally and inherently need to use geolocation of mobile phones, while each user’s position will need to be forwarded to the platform without incurring any costs. Moreover, access to the information must be guaranteed for all, including the disabled. This fact implies that SMS is the way to go, it would be necessary to attach voice messages, video messages and all types of written message. The new regulation will lead to a number of changes and give rise to concerns regarding to the effectiveness (or otherwise) of a system of this nature.

As Benoit Vivier, Director of Public Affairs at EENA reminds us, “We already have the resources and the technology, but so far we have failed to put them to work in an effective manner. The new text should ensure that we achieve this together.” First and foremost, this is about saving lives and providing the right information at the right time to anyone who may be exposed to real danger.