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EMTEL overview

Emergency Telecommunications - EMTEL - a multifaceted concept

The concept of Emergency Telecommunications (EMTEL) addresses a broad spectrum of aspects related to the provisioning of telecommunications services in emergency situations.

Emergency situations may range from a narrow perspective of an individual being in a state of personal emergency (with need to make an emergency call due to sudden illness, traffic accident, outbreak of fire in the home...) to a very broad perspective of serious disruptions to the functioning of society (viz. disaster situations due to events or processes such as earthquakes, floods, large scale terrorist attacks, etc.).

The concept also covers the telecommunications needs of society's dedicated resources for ensuring public safety; including police forces, fire fighting units, ambulance services and other health and medical services, as well as civil defence services. The telecommunications needs of such services have until now been satisfied by dedicated networks and equipment, often different for different services, but with modern technology it is possible to increasingly integrate such services with the public telecommunications services.

Terrestrial and satellite radio/TV broadcasting and Internet services provide means for dissemination of information to the general public, in particular in hazardous and disaster situations.

Telecommunications means may also be increasingly used as parts of various community functions such as health services (e.g. remote patient monitoring to reduce need for hospitalization).

EMTEL standardization is important

Interoperability and interfacing of services and systems are of paramount importance in emergency telecommunications. Authorities and public safety organizations must be able to communicate across services, and ideally also across borders, to ensure the efficiency and safety of their personnel. Dedicated equipment and priority access are other crucial requirements. Public networks can quickly become saturated in an emergency situation. Standards are needed to make all this possible, and you can help shape the development of these standards in ETSI.

Furthermore, recent resolutions in bodies such as the ITU Telecommunication Standards Advisory Group (TSAG), the Global Telecommunications Standards Collaboration (GTSC), the Asia-Pacific Standardization Program (ASTAP) and various ETSI Technical Bodies (in relation to work on Next Generation Networks), as well as the results of the 2002 ETSI EMTEL workshop, all highlight the need for a coordinated approach to emergency communications.

The organization of emergency and public safety services may vary from country to country, depending on how the society is structured. Citizens are increasingly mobile. They travel for business, for holidays, etc. In order to provide an optimum level of security and accessibility to these citizens in emergency situations, the emergency telecommunications services need harmonization.

Likewise, to be able to cooperatively utilize the public safety resources of different countries in an effective manner, not only at cross-border operations but also at joint operations in disaster situations, telecommunications networks and equipment must be able to cooperate.

Coordinated standardization activities are necessary, not only between those technical committees within a Standards Development Organization (SDO) that address the various telecommunications solutions that support emergency telecommunications, but also in the form of collaboration between the various SDOs.

As a first effort towards reaching the above goals, a highly successful workshop on Emergency Telecommunications was organized by ETSI in February 2002. The many presentations given at this workshop are available here (links in 'Agenda' and 'Non-presented Papers').

Subsequently, in September 2002, an EMTEL ad-hoc group under the Operational Co-ordination Group (OCG) was set up to look at standardization requirements in this area, to interface with the European Commission and to ensure the coordination of work between ETSI technical bodies.

In 2002/2003, a short study of the localization of emergency calls has been undertaken under the eEurope initiative.

In February 2005 the ETSI Board approved the change of status of this group as Special Committee (SC) EMTEL which allows this group to produce mainly Technical Reports (TRs) or Technical Specifications (TSs). The EMTEL Terms of Reference have been updated to reflect this change.

Documents published by SC EMTEL:

  • SR 002 777: Test/verification procedure for emergency calls
  • TR 102 180: Basis of requirements for communication of individuals with authorities/organizations in case of distress (Emergency call handling)
  • TR 102 299: Collection of European Regulatory Texts and orientations
  • TR 102 444: Analysis of the Short Message Service (SMS) and Cell Broadcast Service (CBS) for Emergency Messaging applications; Emergency Messaging; SMS and CBS
  • TR 102 445: Overview of Emergency Communications Network Resilience and Preparedness
  • TR 102 476: Emergency calls and VoIP: possible short and long term solutions and standardization activities
  • TR 102 850: Analysis of Mobile Device Functionality for PWS
  • TS 102 181: Requirements for communication between authorities/organizations during emergencies
  • TS 102 182: Requirements for communications from authorities/organisations to the citizens during emergencies
  • TS 102 410: Basis of requirements for communications between individuals and between individuals and authorities whilst emergencies are in progress
  • TS 102 900: European Public Warning System (EU-ALERT) using the Cell Broadcast Service

A status list of EMTEL work currently active in the ETSI Technical Bodies is maintained on the EMTEL portal.


Recommendations in the area of emergency telecommunications have already been agreed by the European Union, and more will follow in the future. An example is the new provision that operators should forward caller location information related to 112 emergency calls to the respective authorities. This provision for a caller location enhanced 112 service (E112) has been effective from 25th July 2003. Work to integrate standardized solutions into telecoms standards is currently taking place in ETSI.

EMTEL is also much more than location enhanced emergency calls and radio communications systems for public safety personnel. ‘Smart’ or intelligent cars, clothing and homes are other examples of important and expanding technologies into which EMTEL applications can be integrated. Innovations such as clothes with built-in mobile phones, hazard warning and GPS devices, or microphones linked to voice recognition control systems, could be part of EMTEL’s imminent future. Do you have equipment that could be integrated into smart homes, cars or clothes? If so, come and join the work!