Maharashtra may soon get a 911-like emergency helpline number

  • Debasish Panigrahi, Hindustan Times, Mumbai
  • Updated: Nov 29, 2014 16:08 IST

On the lines of the well-known 911 service in the US, you may soon be able to dial a single helpline number for emergencies of any kind.

The Maharashtra police administration is working on a project to provide a single emergency number, which will consolidate the dozens of helplines existing at present for various purposes.

The helpline, which can be dialled from wired and wireless phones across Maharashtra, will attend to distress situations of any sort, including natural disasters. By dialling the designated number, which is yet to be decided, those in distress can seek immediate assistance from the police, fire department or ambulance services.

The consolidated helpline number seeks to put an end to the problems created by the multiplicity of helplines in place at present.

“A new helpline comes up every six months for some purpose or the other. This not only burdens the police department, which is invariably called in every situation, but also makes it difficult for citizens to remember these numbers,” said an official, requesting anonymity. “If every kind of emergency service can be availed of by dialling a single number – like in the US – it will not only be user-friendly but also streamline the system.”

At present, Mumbai has at least half a dozen emergency helplines in operation. Apart from the police emergency helpline (10), there are helplines for women (103), ambulance (108), fire brigade (102) among others. NGOs also have helplines of their own for purposes such as suicide prevention. To bring these services under one roof, a massive control room will be set up, most likely in Mumbai, while regional units will be set up across the state.

The main room will be connected to the emergency desks of various other agencies such as fire department, ambulance services etc,

“Separate desks would be set up to handle different kinds of emergency calls. If someone calls regarding a fire, it will be handled by a desk dedicated for that purpose. The emergency desk at the fire brigade headquarters will be informed about the call immediately, while the police will be automatically alerted,” an official said.

A maximum response time of seven minutes will be set on receiving the call. With the new helpline, the police also intend to address prevalent problems such as call drops, waiting or line-jamming.

“Since the new service will entail handling heavy traffic, we will go for heavy-duty servers which can handle hundreds of calls simultaneously,” an official said, requesting anonymity.

Highly-placed sources in the state police told HT that suggestions have been sought from the various agencies involved in emergency services, before the proposal for the helpline is placed before the government for approval.

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