-----------------------------------------------------------------------
Country         National    Police  Fire    Ambulance   Other
-----------------------------------------------------------------------
Albania            ---      19      18      17
Argentina          ---      101     107     ---
Australia          000      ---     ---     ---         112  GSM dig/AMPS mob
Austria            112      133     122     144
Belarus            ---      02      01      03
Belgium            ---      101     100     100         105 for Red Cross
Brazil             ---      190     193     192
Canada             911      ---     ---     ---

Canary Islands     112      ---     ---     ---         112 for mobiles
Cayman Islands     911      ---     ---     --- 
Chile              ---      133     132     131         
Czechoslavakia     ---      158     150     155
Denmark            112      ---     ---     ---
Dominican Republic 911      ---     ---     ---
Estonia            ---      002     001     003
Finland            112      10022   ---     ---         Changed from 000 
Faeroe Islands     000      ---     ---     ---
France             ---      17      18      15
Germany            ---      110     112     112         19222 (some areas)
Greece             199      100     100     166
Hong Kong          999      ---     ---     ---         (112 GSM digital mobile)
Hungary            ---      07      05      04
Iceland            112      ---     ---     ---
Indonesia          ---      110     113     118
Irish Republic     999      ---     ---     ---         (112 works also)
Israel             ---      100     102     101
Italy              113      112     115     118   
Jamaica            ---      119     110     110
Japan              ---      110     119     119
Kazakhstan         ---      02      01      03
Kenya              999      ---     ---     ---
Korea              ---      112     119     119
Kroatia            ---       92      93      94
Luxembourg         ---      113     112     112         (112 GSM digital mobile)
Malaysia           ---      999     994     999         Civil Defense 991
Macedonia          ---       92      93      94
Mexico City        08       ---     ---     ---
Moldavia           ---      02      01      03
Netherlands        112      ---     ---     ---
New Zealand        111      ---     ---     ---
Norway             ---      112     110     113
Phillipines        ---      166     ---     ---
Poland             ---      997     998     999
Portugal           112      ---     ---     ---         (112 GSM digital mobile)
Romania            ---      955     981     961
Russia             ---       02      01      03
Saudi Arabia       ---      999     998     997 
Singapore          ---      999     995     995      
Slovakia           ---      158     150     155
South Africa       107*     10111*  10177*  10177*      102 (some mobiles) *some regions only
Spain              ---      091     080     061
Sweden             112      ---     ---     ---         
Switzerland        112      117     118     144         
Taiwan             ---      110     119     119
Thailand           ---      191     199     ---
Trinidad/Tobago    ---      999     990     990
Turkey             ---      155     110     112         (112 GSM digital mobile)
Ukraine            ---       02      01      03
United Kingdom     999/112  ---     ---     ---         Double trunking
United States      911      ---     ---     ---         Not all jurisdictions
Venezuela          171      ---     ---     ---         Caracas mainly
Yugoslavia         ---       92      93      94
-----------------------------------------------------------------------

Britain established the first nationwide emergency telephone number on 1st July 1937.

Numbers taken from http://www.techrescue.org/archive/emergnums.html

Despite the wide range of variations, there is a method in the madness. Most countries started to implement their telephone infrastructure in the early years of the 20th century, at which time DTMF tone-dialling was unthought-of. All telephones worked on the pulse system, whereby dialling a number would make and break a circuit to cause a series of electrical pulses to travel down the wire.

When the emergency number systems were first thought up, there were two main criteria:

(a) The number(s) had to be easy to memorise, and
(b) They should be easy to dial in the dark or when surrounded by smoke or whatever.

Working on this principle, the first suggestion was "111" -- about as memorable as anything else could be, and easy to dial even if you couldn't see what you were doing, as "1" (on an old-fashioned rotary dial phone) is just one finger hole away from the zero which was always at the bottom of the dial. Zero itself could not be used as it was used to get through to the operator at the local telephone exchange switchboard (this was long before direct trunk dialling came along).

However it was found that the wind blowing through telephone cable suspended from poles out in the street could sometimes cause a fake pulse to travel down the wire; it didn't take long before they realised that having the weather call the police or fire brigade was probably not a good thing. Another number had to be chosen: in the US they simply substituted the first "1" with "9" -- 911 -- in the UK they replaced all the "1"s with "9"s -- 999 -- and in other countries other similar ideas were used. The Americans apparently investigated the British 999 idea but rejected it as on a pulse-dialled phone, a "9" takes nine times as long to go through as a "1" does. 911 was chosen as the fastest, easily memorable number which didn't cause a host of fake calls.

Many thanks to my grandma who spent all her working life as a telephone operator and filled my head with all this trivia.

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