Origin of the number 112

Discussions of the need to introduce a uniform Europe-wide emergency number started back in 1970s. This need was driven by continuously and rapidly increasing number of travellers to other European countries and the need to ensure the safety of travellers.

At that time, individual emergency services had their “own” helplines in each state, which were difficult for travellers to remember or even to find out what they are. Instead of calling emergency services immediately, travellers having suffered an accident abroad and ended up in a stressful situation had to first of all remember or find out the number to call. Such delays wasted time which is extremely precious in such situations, which in turn posed a threat to human health or even life.

This is why proposals were made to introduce a single European emergency number 112 back in 1976.

However, the process took time. It was not until 29 July 1991 that the Council of the European Communities adopted a decision requiring the Member States of the European Union to ensure, by 31 December 1996 at the latest, the introduction of a single European emergency number 112 in their networks, which could be used along with all other existing national emergency lines.

Subsequent legislation of the European Parliament and of the Council provided that each Member State must ensure that:

  • emergency calls to 112 are free of charge;
  • calls made to 112 are handled so as to best meet the procedure of the organization of work of emergency services;
  • equal access for people with disabilities to emergency services is ensured;
  • institution receiving 112 emergency calls has free access to the caller’s location data;
  • citizens are informed about 112 and its use, in particular by means of information for persons travelling from one Member State to another.

After the accession of the European Union, Lithuania also had to implement these provisions.

Since 2004, the Emergency Response Centre established following the example of other foreign countries has been answering emergency calls to 112 and responding to requests for help.