HYDERABAD: The new emergency helpline ‘112’, launched by the Centre along the lines of the USA’s ‘911’, has largely found itself at the receiving end of unintended calls. Despite being launched just six months ago with little publicity, the helpline gets about 1,55,000 calls every day. But just about 15 of them, on an average, are genuine emergency calls, according to official data. This gives the helpline a pathetic efficiency rate of just 0.02 per cent.
In contrast, ‘Dial 100’ gets 30,000-35,000 calls a day, of which about 4,000 are genuine emergency calls, giving it an efficiency rate of 14-15 per cent. The remaining calls are attributed to pocket dials, playful children, or pranksters.
While the dramatically high response of the public to the new helpline has left many baffled, authorities attribute it to automation “It is a new project, and the high number of calls to ‘112’ is because the helpline is pre-fed into phones. If one presses the power button thrice, the helpline gets called,” explained Additional DGP, Technical Service, Ravi Gupta. The number ‘112’ was introduced to club the existing helplines ‘100’, ‘101’, ‘108’, and ‘1091’, for police, fire, medical, and women’s emergency services.
‘Call centre personnel overburdened’
Sources among officials managing the helpline ‘112’ note that the high number of calls has led to the call centre personnel being overburdened. They add that since the number is relatively unknown, it is manageable, but once it gains popularity, dealing with the high number of non-genuine calls would be a problem.
“The unintended calls can cause genuine cases to be missed or delayed, defeating the purpose of an emergency call,” explained an official from the department, adding that in future, if all emergency numbers are clubbed and directed to ‘112’, misdials would be a great problem.
Most mobiles built in 2017-18 have ‘112’ built in as an emergency contact. States like Andhra Pradesh began using the IVR system, whereby if dialled, the caller is greeted by a pre-recorded voice with directions to press a number to proceed with further options. That way, only those genuinely seeking help would follow instructions and further press a button. However, experts say such a system may not work a person in distress can’t be expected to listen to the IVR.