We are all used to relying on our mobile in our day to day life; and in an emergency situation your mobile may well be the first thing you reach for.

Around 70% of calls to Australia’s emergency number, Triple Zero, now originate from a mobile rather than a landline.

Australia’s environment is susceptible to the threat of bushfires and extreme weather events and accidents can happen at any time - so it’s important to know the facts about how to make a call to emergency services from your mobile and how to be prepared for an emergency.

Call Triple Zero in an emergency

Triple Zero (000) is Australia’s primary emergency call number and should be used in urgent medical or life-threatening situations to contact police, fire or ambulance services.

All mobile devices sold in Australia are required to meet Australian standards which mean that you will be able to call Triple Zero as long as your mobile phone has battery power and is within the coverage area of any Australian mobile network (provided that network is operational and has not been disrupted by a natural disaster, outage or congestion).

Australian standards also mean that mobiles sold in Australia will allow you to make an emergency call to Triple Zero without having to unlock the keypad or enter a PIN. If you look at your phone while the keypad is locked you will see the option for "emergency call" is always there.

You will be able to call Triple Zero regardless of whether your service is prepaid or postpaid. If your service is prepaid, you do not require credit to call Triple Zero. Even if the mobile account is inactive, disconnected or there is no SIM in the phone you will still be able to call Triple Zero.

There are special roaming arrangements in place to ensure that even when you are out of your service provider’s coverage but in another carrier’s mobile phone network coverage area your emergency call will be carried on the other carrier’s network.

112 is a globally recognised emergency number and Australia’s secondary emergency number that can also be dialled from mobile phones in Australia - with all the same functionality and roaming arrangements as Triple Zero. Mobile phones sold in Australia since 2002 recognise Triple Zero as the emergency number in Australia. If you are using a phone purchased overseas or if you are an international roamer visiting Australia, you can call either Triple Zero or 112.

It is important to remember that your phone will always need sufficient battery power and will need to be with the coverage area of a mobile network.  If you are going to be in a remote location with limited coverage, you may not be able to call Triple Zero and should consider alternatives such as a mobile satellite phone service or personal location beacon.

Be aware that in some cases local cellular coverage may be disrupted by local disasters, such as fire, flood, loss of power or the network may be suffering from congestion. Check the numbers of bars showing available network coverage on your phone and if it shows you have coverage you could try again later.

If there is no coverage available from any terrestrial mobile network, you will not be able to reach the emergency call service via a mobile phone, regardless of whether you dial 112 or 000, unless you have a mobile satellite phone and associated service.

Note: All network operators are closing their 2G networks through 2017 and you should ensure that your mobile phone is able to access your supplier’s available networks. If unsure if you need to upgrade your mobile phone you should contact your supplier to discuss.

 

Are there other ways to contact Triple Zero?

At present, the only way to contact Triple Zero is by voice calling - you cannot send a text or SMS to Triple Zero.

106 is a text-based emergency number for people who are deaf, or who have a hearing or speech impairment. You can only use 106 from a teletypewriter (TTY) which is a special text-based device or a computer with internet access. You can find out more about accessing emergency services via the National Relay Service here.

Find out more about calling Triple Zero here.

When should I call Triple Zero?

Triple Zero is for emergency situations that pose an immediate threat to life or property.  You can read more about how and when to call 000 here.

When you call Triple Zero, try to stay calm and answer the operator’s questions clearly. Be ready to provide your location information and don’t hang up until the operator tells you to.

If the situation is not urgent, it is better to call your local police or fire station or you can contact the Police Assistance Line on 131 44 or State Emergency Services on 132 500. It helps to have these important numbers stored on your phone. Or you can use the Emergency + App (see below).

Location information is important

While mobile calls to Triple Zero do provide some location information to the operator automatically, it does not provide a precise location so it helps if you can provide those details.

If you have a smartphone, the Emergency + App can help you determine your location so you can provide it to the Triple Zero operator.

The Emergency + App (developed by NSW Fire and Rescue) is available from the Windows, Google Play and Apple App stores for free. The App uses your smartphone's GPS capability to provide you with your location information which you can then give to the Triple Zero operator if needed. The App also provides information about when to call Triple Zero, the SES or PAL. Links to download the free App can be found here.

Store important numbers on mobile so you are prepared for emergencies

If you want to be prepared for emergencies, it’s a good tip to save important "In Case of Emergency" or ICE contact numbers for family, friends in your contacts on your mobile device so you will easily be able to access them in an emergency. Having numbers listed under ICE in your contacts list can also assist emergency workers or others get in contact with someone who can help with vital information about you if something happens to you.

For example, you may want to include:

  • State Emergency Services (SES) -  132 500
  • Police Assistance Line (PAL) - 131 444
  • your local police station and fire services
  • your doctor's surgery and local hospital
  • your spouse or partner's workplace, your children's childcare centres or schools, parent's nursing home etc
  • neighbours
  • vets
  • poison information line 131 126

More tips

Keep your batteries charged as you will always need battery power to use your mobile device; remembering that power outages can often occur during or after natural disasters. Conserve battery power during emergencies and disasters by only using your device for important communications, rather than web browsing or video streaming.

Remember if you are in your home, you may still be able to receive information by radio or tv and if you have access to a broadband service you can use other media such as emergency services or news social media sites, streaming news services, etc. You can also use your landline (if you have one) to call Triple Zero or other emergency numbers.

Sometimes mobile networks can experience temporary outages during natural disasters or emergency situations or they may simply be handling a lot of traffic. If you are unable to use your mobile to make a voice call, try sending an SMS or contacting family/friends by social media. And limit your communications to both conserve battery power and reduce traffic on networks.

You can read more about how to be "mobile phone prepared" for emergencies and natural disasters here.

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