KINGSTON — Come mid-November, Jamaica will be activating new emergency numbers in harmony with other countries around the globe.
This move will see Jamaica being the first country in the English-speaking Caribbean to activate the new Office of Utilities Regulation (OUR)-spearheaded International Telecommunications Union (ITU) recommendation towards the global harmonisation of emergency numbers.
The recommendation means that the numbers to dial for calls to emergency services in Jamaica will be 112 and 911.
Speaking with JIS News, Director of Consumer Affairs, OUR, Michael Bryce, informed that when implemented, these numbers will replace the current 110 emergency number, which is used to reach fire, police and ambulance services.
"The OUR signed off on the determination and issued it to the (ITU) on September 28, 2011. It is expected to be in effect 30 business days from that day, so that should take us to November 10, 2011. At that point, you should be able to dial 112 or 911 to reach emergency services," he told JIS News.
Even with these changes, Jamaica will have a "permissive dialing" period of one year in order to phase out the 110 code.
While both the old and new numbers may be dialed to reach the emergency services during this period, the OUR is encouraging callers to use only the new numbers, to become familiar with them early.
Mr. Bryce said it is significant to note that the current police direct emergency number 119 will remain and is not affected by this change.
"It is important to point out that the emergency number to reach the police direct, which is 119, will not be affected by this change…but you can still reach them through 112 and 911 as well,” he told JIS News.
He said this move is aimed at ensuring that persons are always certain of the phone numbers to access emergency services, no matter where they are in the world.
"There was an incident some years ago involving a Jamaican in the UK, who was unaware of the emergency number for that country and therefore was not able to get emergency help in time to prevent what we call a disaster, so that Jamaican appealed to the Jamaican government to see what could be done to have numbers standardised across the globe," he said.
Resulting from that incident, the ITU recommended that countries planning to introduce an emergency number use either 112 or 911. Countries planning to introduce a second or alternative number should also use one of these two codes or both.
"The 112 number is the most widely used emergency number in the European side of the world and 911 is the most commonly used emergency number in the American region and therefore it was felt that if you had a harmonisation of both numbers, 112 or 911, irrespective of wherever you are in the world, then you would be able to reach emergency services," he told JIS News.
Mr. Bryce said the change will allow visitors to the island as well as Jamaicans who are visiting abroad to access emergency numbers, since the global harmonisation rule will mean that each country will adopt the numbers.
By Chris Patterson, JIS Reporter