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Government blocks funds for improved 112 services

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17:24 CEST+02:00
Mobile phone calls to SOS Alarm, the Swedish emergency services, have increased by 65% over the last couple of years. The organisation says it needs another 5 million crowns to deal with the increase - and to comply with a recent EU directive - but the government has refused further funds.

While calls from the fixed network can be traced, mobile phone calls demand more time and attention from the operator in order to locate the accident or emergency. The EU issued a directive last year calling on all emergency services to install software that would allow them to trace mobile phone calls.

In response, SOS Alarm worked out a system in conjunction with the mobile phone operators designed to save lives and cut costs.

"We are talking about saving 100 lives a year in Sweden as well as 1.3 billion crowns," said Nils Erik Norin, regional director for SOS Alarm.

Everything is in position to start the system but now the government is refusing to come up with the additional 5 million crowns requested by SOS Alarm.

Infrastructure minister Ulrica Messing gave a short statement to Svenska Dagbladet, which ran the story this week.

"There are economic reasons behind the government's decision to turn down SOS Alarm's request for additional funds," she said. "They have received their annual budget of 144 million crowns for 2004 and should prioritise these funds as they see fit."

Sven-Runo Bergquist, MD for SOS Alarm disagreed.

"This is an additional service for which we have not had to budget before."

The emergency services received around 3.6 million phone calls in 2003. The increase in mobile phone calls caused an increase in the average duration of a call by 15-20 seconds.

Tracing all calls could bring a reduction of 10-15 seconds, allowing operators to take more phone calls. Nils-Erik Norin says that "it's not unusual that it takes five minutes before we find out where the person is ringing from".

According to SvD, another problem for the emergency services is that 50% of the calls are either crank calls or refer to non-acute situations. One man in the north of Stockholm rang SOS Alarm 3000 times. After 150 phone calls in one night the police were called in.

While the EU has not been specific about when the directive should be implemented it estimates that the Directive will save some 5000 lives a year throughout the EU.

Sources: Svenska Dagbladet

Lysanne Sizoo

Lysanne Sizoo is a certified Counsellor, specialising in bereavement, fertility and cultural assimilation issues. She also runs a support and discussion group for English speaking women. You can contact her on sizoo@swipnet.se, or 08 717 3769. More information on www.sizoo.nu.

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