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000 (mostly known as triple-zero or triple-O) is the primary national emergency number in Australia. The Emergency Call Service is operated by Telstra Corporation Limited as a condition of its telecommunications license, and is intended only for use in life-threatening or time-critical emergencies. Other emergency numbers in Australia are 112 for GSM mobile phones — which is redirected to a 000 operator — and 106 for textphones.
Prior to 1961, Australia had no national number for emergency services; the police, fire and ambulance services possessed many phone numbers, one for each local unit. In 1961, the office of the Postmaster General (PMG) introduced the 000 number in major population centres and near the end of the 1980s extended its coverage to nationwide. The number 000 was chosen for several reasons, one of which was that zero was closest to the finger stall on Australian pulse dial phones, so it was easy to dial in darkness.
911 was previously considered as a potential emergency number, though existing numbering arrangements make this unfeasible due to users in Sydney and Melbourne being assigned numbers beginning with 911.
Calling 000 connects the caller to a Telstra operator who will then connect the caller to the emergency service operator. Telstra operators do not take any details or dispatch services. Telstra operators ask "Police, Fire, Ambulance?". If calling from a mobile phone, the Telstra operator will ask the caller's city and state. The caller is then connected to the local communications centre for the emergency service they requested. As soon as the emergency service operator takes the call, the job information is transferred to the emergency service and the Telstra operator will state the "job number" over the line. The emergency service operator will then take the details required to dispatch the emergency service.
The caller's address is usually available to emergency dispatchers in Australia, even if the number is "private". However, emergency calltakers always ask for the address to be stated and disregard the displayed address whenever possible. This is mainly because Australian mobile networks do not yet have location tracking available, and also calls may be made from a different location to the emergency (although not recommended).
000 is a free call anytime anywhere within Australia. Dialling 000 (or 112) on most Australian GSM mobile phones will override any keypad lock, and 000 (or 112) can be called from a GSM phone with no SIM card and may work even when out of range of the caller's home network (the phone will attempt to use other networks, if available, to make the call). (Almost all GSM mobile phones will dial 112 and 000 even when locked, however as 000 is an Australian-only number there are some older phones that will not behave this way.) Interpreter services are available to callers in many different languages 24 hours a day.
As the Australian Communications and Media Authority does not regard State Emergency Service (SES) calls as life-threatening, the 000 number does not allow them to be contacted. Asking for the SES prompts a recorded announcement explaining how to proceed.
2003 overload in Melbourne
On December 3 2003, floods and storms in Melbourne caused a large influx of 000 calls, preventing some calls from being answered immediately. This caused some users interviewed by authorities to believe that they had dialled the wrong number. A subsequent investigation recommended that a recorded announcement be set up to assure callers that their calls were being connected. Now, the dial tone has been replaced by a recorded message, "You have dialled emergency triple-zero. Your call is being connected."..
Emergency services prefer the phrase "triple zero" over "triple O" as some callers, especially frequent mobile phone users, may confuse zero with the letter O and call 666 (the numbers on which the letter O is indicated on a phone keypad).
000 was used also as the emergency number in Finland until 1.1.1993, when it was replaced by 112.
- Australian Communications and Media Authority
- ESTA Frequently asked questions: http://www.esta.vic.gov.au/?id=71 - accessed 31/5/2007
- Report into Telstra's handling of 000 calls on 3 December 2003 (PDF)
- http://www.ourbrisbane.com/living/homes/security/lock/ - accessed 31/5/2007, http://www.miriamvale.qld.gov.au/admin/uploads/MINUTES170106Pg223.pdf - accessed 31/5/2007