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In many countries the public telephone network has a single emergency telephone number (sometimes known as the universal emergency telephone number or occasionally the emergency services number) that allows a caller to contact local emergency services for assistance. The emergency number differs from country to country; it is typically a three-digit number so that it can be easily remembered and dialed quickly. Some countries have a different emergency number for each of the different emergency services; these often differ only by the last digit. In the European Union, Russia, Ukraine and Switzerland and others "112" was introduced as a common emergency call number during the 1990s, and as the GSM standard it is now a well known emergency number across the globe alongside the North American "911".
- 1 Configuration and operation
- 2 History of emergency services numbers
- 3 Emergency numbers and mobile telephones
- 4 Emergency numbers
- 5 See also
- 6 References
- 7 External links
Configuration and operation
The emergency telephone number is a special case in the country's telephone number plan. In the past, calls to the emergency telephone number were often routed over special dedicated circuits. Though with the advent of electronic exchanges these calls are now often mixed with ordinary telephone traffic, they still may be able to access circuits that other traffic cannot. Often the system is set up so that once a call is made to an emergency telephone number, it must be answered. Should the caller abandon the call, the line may still be held until the emergency service answers and releases the call.
An emergency telephone number call may be answered by either a telephone operator or an emergency service dispatcher. The nature of the emergency (police, fire, medical) is then determined. If the call has been answered by a telephone operator, they then connect the call to the appropriate emergency service, who then dispatches the appropriate help. In the case of multiple services being needed on a call, the most urgent need must be determined, with other services being called in as needed.
Emergency dispatchers are trained to control the call in order to provide help in an appropriate manner; they can be assisted by computer aided call handling systems (CACH). The emergency dispatcher may find it necessary to give urgent advice in life-threatening situations. Some dispatchers have special training in telling people how to perform first aid or CPR.
In many parts of the world, an emergency service can identify the telephone number that a call has been placed from. This is normally done using the system that the telephone company uses to bill calls, making the number visible even for users who have unlisted numbers or who block caller ID. For an individual fixed landline telephone, the caller's number can often be associated with the caller's address and therefore their location. However, with mobile phones and business telephones, the address may be a mailing address rather than the caller's location. The latest "enhanced" systems, such as Enhanced 911, are able to provide the physical location of mobile telephones. This is often specifically mandated in a country's legislation.
History of emergency services numbers
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When an emergency happened in the pre-dial (or "manual") telephone era, the user simply picked up the telephone receiver and waited for the operator to answer "number, please?" The user responded with "get me the police," "get me the fire service," or "I need an ambulance/doctor." Even in large cities, it was seldom necessary to ask for these services by number.
In small towns, operators frequently provided additional service, knowing where to reach doctors, veterinarians, and law enforcement personnel at all times. Frequently, the operator was also responsible for activating the town's fire alarm.
When manual switching systems began to be replaced by automatic, or "dial" systems, there was frequently concern among users that the very personalized emergency service provided by manual operators would be lost.
Because numbers were different for every exchange, callers either had to dial the operator or look up the telephone number. An example of this was Auckland, New Zealand before the introduction of 111 in the 1960s – the city had 40 exchanges, all with different emergency numbers, and finding the telephone number for the local exchange would require having to search through the city's 500-page telephone directory.
This problem was at least partially solved in the United States, Canada, and the UK by dialling "0" for the local assistance operator in case of emergency, although faster service could be obtained if the user dialled the full number for the Police or Fire Department. This system remained essentially unchanged throughout most of North America until the 1970s.
The first emergency number system to be deployed anywhere in the World was in London on 1 July 1937  using the number 999, and this was quickly extended to cover the entire country. When 999 was dialled, a buzzer sounded and a red light flashed in the exchange to attract an operator's attention.
Because of loop disconnect dialing, attention was devoted to making the numbers difficult to dial accidentally by making them involve long sequences of pulses, such as with the UK 999 emergency number. However in modern times, where repeated sequences of numbers are easily accidentally dialled on mobile phones, this is problematic, as mobile phones will dial an emergency number while the keypad is locked or even without a SIM card. Some people have reported accidentally dialling 112 by loop-disconnect for various technical reasons, including while working on extension telephone wiring, and point to this as a disadvantage of the 112 emergency number, which takes only four loop disconnects to activate.
Southern California Telephone Co. began using 116 as an emergency line for Los Angeles, California in 1946. The emergency number 999 was adopted in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada in 1959 at the urging of Stephen Juba, mayor of Winnipeg at the time. The city changed the number to 911 in 1972, in order to be consistent with the newly adopted U.S. emergency number.
The first 911 emergency phone systems went into use in Alabama and Alaska in 1968. The first 911 call was made in Sacramento, California on February 10, 1968. The second system, in Nome, Alaska was put into service later that same month. However, 911 systems were not in widespread use until the 1980s when the number 911 was adopted as the standard number across most of the country under the North American Numbering Plan.
The implementation of 911 service in the USA was a gradual and haphazard process. Because telephone service boundaries did not always exactly match governmental and other jurisdictional boundaries, a user might dial 911, only to discover that he had been connected to the wrong dispatch center because he had telephone service from one location but lived within the boundaries of another jurisdiction.
Electromechanical switching equipment still in use made it difficult to adapt to recognize 911, especially in small towns and rural areas where the call might have to be switched over a considerable distance.For this reason, there are still county sheriff departments that have toll-free "800" area code numbers.
Gradually, various problems were overcome; "smart" or "enhanced" 911 systems were developed that not only would display the caller's number and address at the dispatch center but also could be configured so that 911 calls were automatically routed to the correct dispatch center, regardless of what central office the caller was served from. In the United States, most cities have E911 systems either in use, or in their emergency systems design plans.
The rapid replacement of electromechanical switching systems in the 1980s with electronic or digital systems eliminated the problem of older switches that would not recognize 911. At this point, 911 service is available in most of North America, but there is still the occasional small, remote town that does not have it.
In France, many telephone exchanges were closed at night but it was still possible to make emergency calls. An operator had to connect the emergency calls only. In 1913, an automatic system was set up. It made provision for calling the police by dialling 17 and the fire brigade by dialling 18. As more manual telephone exchanges were converted to dial operation, more and more subscribers had access to these special numbers. The service was not widespread until the 1970s.
The CEPT recommended the use of 112 in 1972. The European Union subsequently adopted the 112 number as a standard on 29 July 1991. It is now a valid emergency number throughout EU countries and in many other CEPT countries. It works in parallel with other local emergency numbers in about 2/3 of EU states.
Emergency numbers and mobile telephones
Mobile phones can be used in countries with different emergency numbers. A traveller visiting a foreign country does not have to know the local emergency numbers, however. The mobile phone and the SIM card have a preprogrammed list of emergency numbers. When the user tries to set up a call using an emergency number known by a GSM or 3G phone, the special emergency call setup takes place. The actual number is not even transmitted into the network, but the network redirects the emergency call to the local emergency desk. Most GSM mobile phones can dial emergency calls even when the phone keyboard is locked, the phone is without a SIM card, or an emergency number is entered instead of the PIN.
Most GSM mobile phones have 112, 999 and 911 as pre-programmed emergency numbers that are always available. The SIM card issued by the operator can contain additional country-specific emergency numbers that can be used even when roaming abroad. The GSM network can also update the list of well-known emergency numbers when the phone registers to it.
Using an emergency number recognized by a GSM phone like 112 instead of another emergency number may be advantageous, since GSM phones and networks give special priority to emergency calls. A phone dialing an emergency service number not recognized by it may refuse to roam onto another network, leading to trouble if there is no access to the home network. Dialing a known emergency number like 112 forces the phone to try the call with any available network.
On some networks a GSM phone without a SIM card may be used to make emergency calls and most GSM phones accept a larger list of emergency numbers without SIM card, such as 112, 911, 118, 119, 000, 110, 08, and 999. However, some GSM networks will not accept emergency calls from phones without a SIM card, or even require a SIM card that has credit. For example, Latin American networks typically do not allow emergency calls without a SIM. Also, GSM phones sold in some countries like Singapore do not accept 112 as an emergency number even if they have a SIM card inserted.
The GSM phones may regard some phone numbers with one or two digits as special service codes. It might be impossible to make an emergency call to numbers like 03 with a GSM phone.
In the United States, the FCC requires networks to route every mobile-phone and payphone[verification needed] 911 call to an emergency service call center, including phones that have never had service, or whose service has lapsed. As a result, there are programs that provide donated used mobile phones to victims of domestic violence and others especially likely to need emergency services.
Mobile phones generate additional problems for emergency operators, as many phones will allow emergency numbers to be dialed even while the keypad is locked. Since mobile phones are typically carried in pockets and small bags, the keys can easily be depressed accidentally, leading to unintended calls. A system has been developed in the UK to connect calls where the caller is sent to an automated system, leaving more operators free to handle genuine emergency calls.
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|Algeria||17||14||14||National Gendarmerie : 1055; Counter Terrorist Unit : 1548; support for children : 3033.|
|Egypt||122||123||180||Tourist Police – 126; Traffic Police – 128; Electricity Emergency – 121; Natural Gas Supply Emergency – 129.|
|Ghana||191||193||192||999 for any of the 3 services.|
|Nigeria||199||199 for any of the 3 services.|
|South Africa||10111||10177||10111||112 from mobile phones (soon also from fixed line phones).|
|Tunisia||197||190||198||National guard – 193.|
|Sudan||999||Traffic Police 777777|
|Zambia||999||991||993||112 from mobile phones (see www.zambiatourism.com/travel/listings/emergency.htm).|
|Zimbabwe||995||994||993||999 for any of the 3 services. 112 from mobile phones|
|Afghanistan||119||102||119||Rewards for Justice: 010-8600-070|
|Bangladesh||999||For the cities of Dhaka and Chittagong only|
|China||110||120||119||Traffic accident: 122.
Private ambulance service in Beijing: 999.
Dialling 112 on GSM mobile phones in China only plays a pre-recorded bilingual message about other emergency numbers.
|Hong Kong||999||992 as fax on fixed line and as SMS number on mobile phones (only for subscribers with disabilities) connects to all emergency services.
Standard GSM emergency number 112 is supported in mobile networks.
|India||100||102, 1298, 108, 112||101||Chennai Traffic Police: 103.
Delhi Traffic Police: 1095.
Kolkata Traffic Police: 1073.
Bangalore uses both 108 and 100.
108 is used in many states.
|Indonesia||110||118, 119||113||Standard GSM emergency number 112 is supported in mobile networks.
Search and rescue team: 115.
Natural disaster: 129.
|Iran||110||115||125||110 connects to all emergency services.
Standard GSM emergency number 112 is supported in mobile networks.
|Israel||100||101||102||Standard GSM emergency number 112 is supported in mobile networks.
Israel Electric Corporation: 103.
Municipal hazards that are not emergencies: 106 (works in any municipality).
|Japan||110||119||Emergency at sea: 118.|
|Kazakhstan||102||103||101||Standard GSM emergency number 112 is supported in mobile networks.
Gas leaks: 104.
|North Korea||819||Standard GSM emergency number 112 is supported in mobile networks.
Operators mostly speak only Korean, some may speak English, Russian or Chinese.
|South Korea||112||119||National security hotline: 111.
Reporting spies: 113.
Missing person hotline: 182.
114 connects to the phone service provider.
|Kuwait||112||Used to be 777.|
|Maldives||102||Police service: 119 (can also be dialled from mobile phones).
Civil defence: 118.
|Malaysia||999 (changing shortly to 191)||Standard GSM emergency number 112 is supported in mobile networks.|
|Mongolia||102||103||101||100 connects to all emergency services.|
|Nepal||100, 103||102||101||Standard GSM emergency number 112 is supported in mobile networks.|
|Pakistan||15||115, 1122||16||15 and 1122 connect to all emergency services.
Standard GSM emergency number 112 is supported in mobile networks.
Traffic police: 1915.
|Philippines||117||117 may also be texted from mobile phones.
Standard GSM emergency number 112 as well as North American emergency number 911 are supported in mobile networks.
Motorist assistance: 136 (Metro Manila only).
Child abuse hotline (Bantay Bata): 163.
|Saudi Arabia||999||997||998||Traffic police: 993.
Emergency rescue: 911, 112 or 08.
|Singapore||999||995||Standard GSM emergency number 112 is supported for foreign mobile phones that use incoming roaming service in Singapore.|
|Sri Lanka||119, 118||110||111||Accident service: 11-2691111.|
|Taiwan||110||119||Standard GSM emergency number 112 is supported in mobile networks.|
|Tajikistan||102||103||101||Standard GSM emergency number 112 is supported in mobile networks.
Gas leaks: 104.
|Thailand||191||1669||199||999 connects to all emergency services.
Standard GSM emergency number 112 is supported in mobile networks.
|United Arab Emirates||999, 112||998, 999||997|
The most common European emergency number 112 (following Directive 2002/22/EC – Universal Service Directive) and also standard on GSM mobile phones. 112 is used in Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Republic of Macedonia, Malta, Montenegro, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine and the United Kingdom in addition to their other emergency numbers.
|Albania||129||127||128||Road police – 126|
|Armenia||102||103||101||Search and rescue – 108; Gas leaks – 104; Traffic police – 177|
|Austria||112||Police – 133; Ambulance – 144; Fire – 122; Gas leaks – 128; Alpine rescue – 140; On-duty medical unit – 141; crisis-hotline – 142; support for children and teens – 147.|
|Azerbaijan||102||103||101||Road police – 126|
|Belarus||102||103||101||Gas leaks – 104; also 112 is redirected to 101 on velcom GSM-operator mobile phones.|
|Belgium||112||Police – 101; Ambulance / Firebrigade – 100; Missing children – 110; Mental problems/suicide – 106.|
|Bosnia and Herzegovina||122||124||123||From mobile phones, dial the international emergency numbers 112, 911 and 08 for information about the local emergency numbers that are to be dialed (122, 123 and 124).|
|Bulgaria||112||Police – 166, Ambulance – 150; Fire – 160.|
|Croatia||112||Police – 192; Ambulance – 94; Fire – 193; Search and rescue at sea – 9155; Road help – 1987.|
|Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus||112||Police - 115; Fire - 199; Ambulance - 112.|
|Cyprus||112||Alternative numbers: 199|
|Czech Republic||112||Police – 158; Ambulance – 155; Fire – 150; Municipal police – 156.|
|Denmark||112||Nearest Police (non-urgent) – 114. The old emergency number was 000.|
|Estonia||112||Police – 110.|
|Finland||112||The old emergency number was 000.|
|France||112||Police – 17; Hospital-based Ambulance (SAMU) – 15; Fire Service-based Ambulance – 18; Fire – 18. 112 calls are answered by 15 or 18 dispatchers, depending on the caller's location. 115 for homeless.|
|Georgia||112||In effect from November 11, 2012. Till then both this number and old standard numbers (111 Fire dpt./Emergency, 122 Police, 113 Ambulance) will be active.|
|Germany||112||Additional number for police - 110|
|Gibraltar||112 or 199||Fire and Ambulance – 190|
|Greece||112||Police – 100; Ambulance – 166; Fire – 199; Forest fire – 1591; Coast guard emergency intervention – 108; Counter-narcotics immediate intervention – 109; Tourist police – 171; Emergency social aid – 197.|
|Hungary||112||Police – 107; Ambulance – 104; Fire – 105.|
|Iceland||112||Police in Reykjavík Capital Area Non-urgent – 4441000|
|Ireland||999 or 112||The emergency telephone number to dial in Ireland for Fire, Gardaí (Irish Police), Ambulance, Irish Marine Emergency Service and The Mountain and Cave Rescue is 999 or 112. These numbers are to be used only in an emergency.|
|Italy||112||Ambulance – 118; Fire – 115; (State Police) – 113; (Carabinieri) – 112; (Forest Service) – 1515; Guardia di Finanza (Customs/Financial Police) – 117; Coast guard – 1530. Also 911 is redirected to 112.|
|Latvia||112||Police – 02; Ambulance – 03, 113 ; Fire – 01; Gas leaks – 04.|
|Lithuania||112||Police – 02 (TEO LT, AB)/ 102 (Omnitel)/ 022 (Bitė/Tele2); Ambulance – 03 (TEO LT, AB)/ 103 (Omnitel)/ 033 (Bitė/Tele2); Fire – 01 (TEO LT, AB)/ 101 (Omnitel)/ 011 (Bitė/Tele2). The non-112 numbers are for separate emergency services differ in distinct telecommunications networks, whereas 112 is available on all networks. The old numbers will be cancelled in the future.|
|Luxembourg||112||Police – 113.|
|Republic of Macedonia||112||Police – 192; Ambulance – 194; Fire – 193.|
|Malta||112||Previously: Police 191; Ambulance 196; Fire 199.|
|Moldova||902||903||901||112 is being implemented by 2010.|
|Monaco||112||Police – 17, Ambulance, severe – 15; Ambulance, less severe – 18, Fire – 18. 112 calls are answered by 15 or 18 dispatchers, depending on the caller's location. 115 for homeless.|
|Montenegro||112||Police – 122; Ambulance – 124; Fire – 123.|
|Netherlands||112||Police (non-urgent) – 0900-8844. Also 911 is redirected to 112 on GSM mobile phones.|
|Norway||112||113||110||Police (non-urgent) – 02800; Child-Abuse and Family Violence - 116 111; TDD (textphone) - 1412|
|Poland||112||Police – 997; Ambulance – 999; Fire – 998; Municipal police – 986; natural gas/LPG emergencies – 992.|
|Portugal||112||Forest fire 117|
|Romania||112||Former short numbers: (Police) – 955; Ambulance – 961; (Firefighters) – 981; (Gendarmerie) – 956; Civil Protection – 982; Family Violence – 983|
|Russia||112||Police – 02; Ambulance – 03; Fire, Search and rescue – 01; Gas leaks – 04. The new number 112 began operating in 2011|
|Serbia||112||Police – 192; Ambulance – 194; Fire – 193|
|Slovakia||112||Police – 158; Ambulance – 155; Fire – 150|
|Slovenia||112||Police – 113|
|Spain||112||National – 091; Local Police – 092; Ambulance – 061; Fire – 080,085; Civil Guard – 062; Mossos d'Esquadra (Catalan police) 088|
|Sweden||112||Non-urgent police – 11414. Non-urgen medical - 1177. The old emergency number was 90 000.|
|Switzerland||112||Police – 117; Ambulance – 144; Fire – 118; Poison – 145; Road emergency – 140; Psychological support (free and anonymous) – 143; Psychological support for teens and children (free and anonymous) – 147; Helicopter air-rescue (Rega) – 1414 or by radio on 161.300 MHz; Air rescue (Air Glaciers) (in Valais only) – 1415.|
|Turkey||155||112||110||to be unified at 112 as only emergency number by 2015; Gendarmerie – 156; Coast Guard – 158; Forest Fire – 177|
|Ukraine||112||Police – 102; Ambulance – 103; Fire – 101; Gas leaks – 104.|
|United Kingdom||999 or 112||In 2006 101 was made available as a non-emergency number for police (and in some areas local authorities) in England and Wales. 111 was made available (in England and Wales) as a non-emergency number for health issues. 999 and 112 can be used from any phone. When dialing 999 or 112, the caller is connected with a telecoms operator such as BT, Cable & Wireless, Railnet, or Kingston Communications, and the operator will ask which service is required. Operators have access to interpretation services covering 170 languages. Deaf people can text 18000 for the emergency services (after registration). 999 was first introduced on 30 June 1937 in London.|
|Vatican City||113||118||115||112 is redirected to 113 on GSM mobile phones|
Australia and Oceania
|Australia||000 or 112
||From a mobile phone – 112 or 000. No other emergency numbers, such as 999 or 911, are redirected.
State Emergency Service (ACT, VIC, NSW, QLD, SA, WA) – 132 500;
|New Zealand||111||*555 traffic (from mobile phones only)
911 and 112 both redirect to the 111 service if dialed from a GSM mobile.
0800 161616 Deaf TTY
0800 161610 deaf fax
111 deaf SMS (registered mobile phones only)
|Solomon Islands||999||There are also local numbers for each service in each urban centre. These local numbers may be quicker than dialling 999.|
|Canada||911||Non-emergency 311 in certain areas. Some rural areas still lack 911 service. 112 is redirected to 911 on GSM mobile phones. *677 connects to the Provincial Police within the province of Ontario and *4141 links to the Sûreté du Québec in the province of Quebec.|
|Greenland||112||112 works from only mobile phones; fixed line phones must call the local police or hospital.|
|Mexico||066||065||068||"066" can be used as a general emergency number, In densely populated areas, 911 is redirected to the proper number.|
|Saint Pierre and Miquelon||17||15||18||Same as France|
|United States of America||911||Various services available through regional or national N11 codes (e.g.: 311 non-emergency police or city services) in certain areas. Also 112 is redirected to 911 for GSM mobile phones.|
Central America and the Caribbean
|Guatemala||110 or 120||122 or 123 or 1554||Notes: The number 911 exists only for private services like medical insurance.|
|Costa Rica||911 or 112|
|Panama||911 or 112|
|Barbados||211||511||311||References: Police, Ambulance, Fire|
|Dominican Republic||911 or 112||From a mobile phone – 112 or 911. Also, 112 is redirected to 911 for GSM mobile phones.|
|Trinidad and Tobago||999||990|
|Argentina||101||107||100||Emergency dispatcher for Buenos Aires (city), Santa Fe (city), Rosario (city), Salta and Buenos Aires (provinces) 911.|
|Bolivia||110||118||119||The 911 number forwards to 110|
|Brazil||190||192||193||Federal highway police 191; federal police 194; civil police 197; state highway police 198; civil defense 199; human rights 100; emergency number for Mercosul area 128; 112 will be redirected to 190 when dialed from mobile phones and 911 will also be redirected to the police number (190) See also: Brazilian telephone numbering plan#Public utility.|
|Colombia||112 or 123 (landlines and mobile phones)||Traffic accidents 127, GAULA (anti-kidnapping) 165. More specialized three-digit numbers are available; check the local Yellow Pages for more information.|
|Ecuador||911 (landlines and mobile phones)||All types of emergencies in Guayaquil (112 landlines, *112 mobile phones), traffic accidents in Guayaquil 103, red cross 131.|
|Peru||105||117||116||Civil defense (disasters) 115 – Domestic violence helpline 100|
- Aeronautical Emergency Communications System Plan
- Amateur radio emergency communications
- Emergency telephone
- Enhanced 911
- In case of emergency (ICE) entry in the mobile phone book.
- National Emergency Number Association (NENA)
- call services
- "50 years of 111 – Planning 111". New Zealand Fire Service/New Zealand Police/St John Ambulance/Wellington Free Ambulance. Retrieved 2010-11-05.
- BBC London; Why 999 for an emergency?
- British Telecom Archives U.K. Telephone History
- Patent for SIM Free Emergency Calls
- Method for emergency service access using a mobile phone
- EENA. EENA Operations Document: False Emergency Calls, European Emergency Number Association, 15-03-2011.
- Staff report (Aug 19, 1946). Just Dial 116 for emergency telephone calls. Los Angeles Times
- [Mobile Reference (2007) Chapter:History of emergency services numbers]
- [David (2000) p.118]
- of 911
- of 911
- Villager p.13
- Motorcyclist Association p.58
- Communication Commision
- "RFCs prepare for Internet emergency calls". blog.anta.net. 8 January 2008. ISSN 1797-1993. Retrieved 8 January 2008.
- "Guidelines to select Emergency Number for public telecommunications networks" (PDF). International Telecommunications Union. 15 May 2008. p. 4. Retrieved 6 May 2012.
- "Wireless 911 Services". Federal Communications Commission. 8 October 2008. Retrieved 5 April 2009.
- "Calls Made From Payphones". Federal Communications Commission. 26 June 2008. Retrieved 5 April 2009.
- "Technology tackles bogus 999 calls". BBC News. 23 May 2002. Retrieved 1 May 2010.
- See here
- European Radiocommunications Office
- European Union
- SOS 112 Europe
- Latest status on E-112 initiative: http://www.esafetysupport.org/en/esafety_activities/28_recommendations/)
- Swisscom: Emergency numbers
- White Pages 2008, Solomon Islands Telephone Directory, p1
- Mobile Reference (2007) "Chapter:History of emergency services numbers"
- David M. Cutler (2000) "The Changing Hospital Industry: Comparing Not-for-Profit and For-Profit" p.118