The first phase of all-India launch of the Emergency Response Support System (ERSS), which can be accessed through panic buttons in mobile phones, will start from February 19. The project is meant for those in distress, mainly women, so that they can send out distress signals along with their location details to the nearest police control room, by pressing a button in their mobile phones.
The project for a pan-India emergency number 112 linked to emergency support services will be launched jointly by the Ministry of Home Affairs and the Ministry of Women & Child Development (WCD) in a few states next week. The project is being financed using Rs 321.69 crore from the Nirbhaya Fund scheme.
It allows users to dial 112 or use the ‘112 India’ app or use the designated panic button on their phones to connect to a single number based emergency services which is linked to police, fire services, health services and other helplines. There will one such emergency response centre in every state and additional district level command centres.
The much-delayed project had seen the Department of Telecommunications issuing a gazette notification on “Panic Button and Global Positioning System in Mobile Phone Handsets Rules 2016” in April 2016, requiring installation of panic buttons in all new mobile phones handsets within a year. Accordingly, feature phones were to have the panic button configured to the numeric key 5 or 9 and all smartphones were to have a designated panic button configured to pressing the on-off button thrice.
“Initially, the plan was to allow women to send SMS alerts to family members. Later it was thought to be an insufficient response, and therefore it was important to link it to police control rooms,” said a WCD official.
However the project hit several snags since then, including how to ensure GPS location tracking on regular feature phones.
The project, along with emergency response vehicles fitted with mobile device terminals, has so far been launched only in Himachal Pradesh and Nagaland in November-December 2018. Trial runs were carried out in Uttar Pradesh but an official launch is yet to happen in the state.