When every second counts

Striving for faster emergency response through more accurate and reliable caller location information in Europe

Anyone who has ever had to make a call to the emergency services will know too well the feeling that time stands still. In situations where it is a matter of life or death every second counts. When that call is made seeking emergency assistance, it is vital that the call taker is able to determine the location of the caller quickly. They must do so with a high degree of confidence in the shortest possible period of time.

In most cases callers will have the capacity to verbally communicate their whereabouts but there will always be exceptions. In situations where emergency callers are incapacitated through injury or shock, where they are unfamiliar with their surroundings or where there is a language barrier, other methods of determining location must be available. The provision of accurate and reliable caller location information is therefore crucial in overcoming these barriers. It will ensure that help can be dispatched to the right location in the shortest possible period of time.

Traditionally, it was possible for the emergency services to rely on the installation address associated with a fixed telephone number to determine caller location. However, as 65-70% of emergency calls in Europe are now made from mobile devices the caller location challenge becomes a little more complex. Emergency calls may also be made from the Internet, which poses an additional location challenge.

The ECC’s Working Group Numbering and Networks (WG NaN) established a project team on emergency services (PT ES) in 2013 with the objective of producing an ECC Report to help European countries implement improved caller location techniques. PT ES delivered ECC Report 225 in October 2014 following extensive consultation with key stakeholders in Europe, including the national emergency services authorities, public safety answering points (PSAPs), police, ambulance and fire services, network operators and network and handset equipment vendors.

The main objective of this data-gathering exercise was to ascertain the requirements and expectations of emergency services organisations in terms of accuracy and reliability of caller location information. It also aimed to understand the electronic communications industry’s perspective on the various positioning techniques, their implementation challenges, potential benefits and associated costs.

The Report identified the implementation of Assisted-Global Navigation Satellite System (A-GNSS) on a harmonised basis across Europe as a first step in a multi-step plan towards improving caller location. The plan is part of an overall programme for improvement aimed at addressing the particular challenges of calls originating on mobile networks, as well as the challenges associated with calls from fixed and IP-based networks.

In a press release to mark 112 day, which took place this year on 11 February, the European Commission reviewed the actions taken in 2014 to improve 112 implementations throughout the EU. It concluded that there is still room for improvement in locating emergency callers. In this context, the Commission mentioned, as a positive step forward, the guidance provided by ECC Report 225. This represents a solid endorsement of the work carried out by the ECC and PT ES.

PT ES has now, based on the conclusions of ECC Report 225, identified and prioritised three key work items that it will continue to work on in the short to medium term. These include:

  • An ECC Report that will evaluate the opportunities, challenges and options for a harmonised implementation of A-GNSS location information throughout Europe. Work has already commenced on this deliverable, which will seek to understand how and where A-GNSS location information is available in Europe with a view to recommending a harmonised approach to be implemented across Europe. It will also examine the consequences of potential harmonised A-GNSS methods for onward conveyance of location information to PSAPs and their practical adoption for emergency calling.
  • An ECC Report defining PSAP-side statistics to quantify the effectiveness of emergency caller location information received. The objective of this work item is to provide a template for closer cooperation between PSAPs, network operators and national administrations on evaluating the effectiveness of the caller location information received so that concentrated efforts can be made to improve coverage where it is most needed.
  • An ECC Report on the provision of caller location information for emergency calls originating on private or corporate networks. This Report will examine the problems and notably the legal issues (as the regulatory framework does not apply to private networks), and attempt to propose concrete solutions for the provision of more accurate and reliable caller location information from private networks.

It is expected that these deliverables will provide guidance and support to European emergency services stakeholders, in accordance with the policies and actions set out in the ECC Strategic Plan.

ECC Report 225 is available for download at the ECC Documentation Database here. Interested stakeholders are encouraged to consult the document for further details.

For more information on the work of PT ES, please visit the PT ES home page here.

Freddie McBride, ECO Expert – Numbering & Networks
Florin Dragomir, Chairman – Project Team - Emergency Services

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