Ireland launches new ‘999’ emergency call answering service

22 Nov 2010

A new 999/112 emergency call answering service has been deployed in Ireland by BT in a move that represents the largest change programme for the service.

Caller Line Identification (CLI) has become a key component of the service for the first time, with the location of the caller from both fixed and mobile phones used to automatically determine the Emergency Services Control Centre to which the call should be forwarded for the first time.

The new service aims to improve speed and accuracy and calls are now being answered within 0.5 seconds. Details of a caller’s phone number and details flash immediately on the screen of the call operator, allowing for the faster processing of calls to the appropriate emergency control centre.

“Our emergency call answering service is the most critical telephone service in the state. Handling between 3 million and 4 million calls every year requires a state-of-the-art system which BT has provided,” Communications Minister Eamon Ryan TD said today.

“New caller identification and the ability to pinpoint the location of the call will enable the emergency services to respond to emergency calls with even greater speed. It was right to take this opportunity to use the latest technology to improve citizens’ access to emergency service.”

Public procurement process

BT, following a public procurement process, was selected by the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources to design, build and manage the platform, leveraging its significant experience in the provision of emergency call answering.  

BT has invested more than €10m in the service to date, and 100 jobs have been created in operator centres in Ballyshannon, Co. Donegal; Navan, Co Meath and East Point Business Park, Dublin.

A detailed and specific training programme has been put in place for operators, and they also receive “refresher training” every month.

“BT is a leader in emergency call answering, and we have drawn heavily on this experience for the design, build and rollout of Ireland’s service, using best-in-class processes and procedures, and our knowledge of the communications industry,” said Graham Sutherland, chief executive officer, BT Ireland.

“It is a privilege to be entrusted to manage this important service on behalf of the State, and we’d like to thank all the organisations that were involved in the smooth transition to the new service.”

The improved service meets 2007 European regulatory requirements and operates under legislation contained within the Telecommunications Act.

Access to the emergency services is free to citizens and paid for by authorised telecoms operators who pay a call handling fee set by ComReg who regulate the service.

The service also adheres to a number of internationally recognised standards to provide evidence of its approach to quality, information security management and its ability to operate on a continual basis.

The new answering system has been audited and certified to the following recognised standards, ISO 9001:2008, ISO27001:2005 and BS25999-2:2007.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years