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January 9, 2003

Tokyo police to modernize 110 emergency call system

From: Mainichi Shimbun, Japan - 08 Jan 2003

The Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) is improving its "110" emergency call system to respond to a surge in the number of calls from mobile phones and to enable hearing-impaired people to send emergency e-mails.

The MPD chose to modernize the system because nearly half of some 1.3 million "110" emergency calls it received last year were from mobile phones. It will introduce the new system in autumn this year.

"We would like to continue to modernize our system so it can respond to mobile phones," an MPD spokesman said.

There are approximately 37,000 hearing-impaired residents in Tokyo, the largest population in the country. They can contact police by fax, but are not able to do so when they are away from their home or office.

Under the new system, hearing-impaired people will be able to send an emergency e-mail from their mobile phones or personal computers to an address designated by the MPD.

MPD officials said that they will withhold the address for emergency e-mails and instead individually notify hearing-impaired people of the address through organizations for handicapped people because Osaka police, which introduced a similar system, was flooded with bogus e-mails.

Moreover, in a bid to reduce the time required for police officers to arrive at the scene of an emergency, the MPD is creating a database of the identification numbers of utility poles and traffic signals and their locations.

Those making emergency calls on mobile phones will be asked to notify police of the identification numbers written on plates on nearby utility poles or traffic light poles, which will allow the MPD's emergency call center to locate the scene on a computer screen.

Tokyo police decided to introduce the system because it often has difficulties specifying the exact locations where emergency calls are made. In particular, callers have difficulties in telling police officers the exact location where they are calling if they are not familiar with the areas.

Therefore, the average time required for a police car to arrive at a designated scene, which had been less than five minutes until 1997, was extended to 6 minutes and 45 seconds in 2001 and 7 minutes and 28 seconds last year.

The number of "110" emergency calls made by Tokyo residents exceeded the 1 million mark in 2000 for the first time. The number surpassed 1.3 million for two years in a row in 2001 and last year.

In 1997, only 29 percent of emergency calls were made from mobile phones. However, the ratio surged to 48 percent last year. (Mainichi Shimbun, Jan. 8, 2003)

© 2003 The Mainichi Newspapers Co.