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When to dial 999

  • Published at 06:01 pm March 30th, 2019
999 Hotline
Trained for the task FOCUS BANGLA

Used properly, the emergency hotline could save lives

Emergencies do not come with a warning. In such events, doctors or law enforcement may not be around to help out. So, one must respond fast. That is why the Universal Emergency Number “911” was thought up by AT&T, which has been serving the Americans since 1968. 

The utility of this brilliant service gained recognition all over the world. It became very popular, because, prior to this line, callers had to know the phone numbers of each department to call in case of an emergency.

In Bangladesh, such a concept was unfamiliar till the ICT division launched its pilot project in December 2017. In association with the Bangladesh Police, Bangladesh Fire Service, the Civil Defense Headquarters, and Department of Health, the government has introduced an emergency number “999.”

This is our very own national emergency hotline, which promises to be by our side in times of immediate need.

The best part about the service is that it is toll free. So the next time you feel your life is under threat, or someone you know needs quick medical help, you can call the number even if you are out of phone credit.

The trained agents of the 999 service will direct you to the police or ambulance as you prefer. 

One must know when to call this number, since it is not an ordinary service. Users of emergency numbers across the world believe that even if you are ever in doubt of whether a situation is an emergency or not, you should call the number.

You must not hesitate to seek help in situations which require expert attention.

Is it an emergency?

Since the service is still at its testing phase, it is best to make people aware of it first. Any emergency number, be it 911 or 999, must be carefully handled. 

According to 911.org: “It’s better to be safe and let the emergency call-taker determine if you need emergency assistance.” Therefore, it is best to observe the situation first without panicking. For example, if you witness a road accident and serious casualties, make the call. 

You could probably save someone’s life by getting them an ambulance. 

When to Call 999

• Medical emergencies 

• Heart attack or stroke 

• House fire 

• Domestic violence 

• Burglary or theft in progress 

• Car accident with life-threatening injuries 

• Suspicious activities

• Anything else that seems like an emergency 

Do not call 999

• For information 

• When there is load-shedding 

• To report a crack on your wall 

• When your water pipes burst 

• To get a ride for a doctor’s appointment 

• For paying tickets 

• For your pet 

• As a prank

What should you say?

• According to the website of National Helpdesk, the operators have already been trained to respond to different situations. However, when calling 999, one must provide the following information in detail to assist them and to get quick relief

• Provide a full address: In this case, mention district or name of upazila. If you do not know your address fully, identify any landmark near you.

• Answer all the questions asked:  The police or medical authorities may ask questions that you have to answer. This way, they will be able to advise you about your initial steps to solve the problem.

• Stay calm: When addressing your problem, you must be calm at all times for clarity. Becoming emotional will not only prevent the operators from understanding your problems, but keep them from giving you a remedy.

• Describe your emergency: Provide this information carefully: Are you in the situation, is someone else you know? How did it happen? Which service do you require -- police or ambulance? Is the condition of the injured very serious? Are they conscious? Are they breathing? Are they bleeding? If you cannot answer such questions clearly, then let another person speak to the operator.

• If there’s a crime, describe the offender: If you are a witness to a crime, quickly move to a corner. Call 999 as fast as you can. If you know the criminal, mention that too. Let the operator know whether the criminal has a weapon. Answer these questions: How does he look? What is his religion? What is his approximate age, weight, colour of attire? Is he still there?

• Keep your phone on: If you called from a mobile phone, keep it on so that the operator can contact you.

The 999 service is certainly a necessary change in Bangladeshi society. There are drawbacks like the severe traffic condition of Dhaka city, which may prevent a quick response. The ambulance or the police may reach you much later than you hope for. 

Hence, keeping all these factors in mind, one must acknowledge the weight of an urgent situation and make the call as fast as possible. As crimes and medical emergencies are on the rise, such a service surely is a blessing. The ICT division deserves full support from the citizens for taking such a brilliant step. 

Aiman R Khan is an Apprentice Advocate, Dhaka Judge Court.

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