While the Internet is a far-reaching tool full of resources by everyone and anyone, the primary fault is that it is a far-reaching tool with resources by everyone and anyone. Love it or hate it, that’s what it is. Many believe that Reagan coined the term “trust but verify” based on the advice of one of his advisers when dealing with Mikhail Gorbachev. But as it turns out, sources on the Internet claim this is an old Russian proverb. (yes, this was verified)
According to a 2019 article in Russia Beyond, the proverb (which rhymes in Russian) – Doveryai, no proveryai – means “a responsible person always verifies everything before committing himself to a common business with anyone, even if that anyone is totally trustworthy.”
Likely good advice, especially when dealing with life safety issues such as 911 that surface on the Internet. This is particularly true for popular Social Media message boards that are not anywhere close to being verifiable, and stories posted that have the propensity to self-validate themselves as these stories get shared and prolonged. But not everyone is sucked into the spiraling frenzy of hysteria. For instance, take my good friend Kelly. She’s an intelligent, well-educated business executive, that is respected in the IT world because of her sharp head on her shoulders. The bottom line, she is no dummy. (Author’s note: Kelly is also a feisty red-headed Irish lass who can – and HAS – kicked my ass!) she recently sent me a post about the secret emergency code 112 that can be used to verify an unmarked police officer attempting to stop your vehicle. She’s a smart lady, but she knows to “Doveryai, no proveryai”. And, I am honored to be the one she reached out to on this, as this rumor should be squelched before someone gets hurt over a simple misunderstanding with 911.
FIRST AND FOREMOST – A SECRET EMERGENCY NUMBER DOESN’T EXIST
A social media message board is not where you would find it if it did.
I know that some will say, “Fletch! I called 112 and got the Police!” YES – it is likely that you were able to do that with any current smartphone device, and here is why:
Unlike a landline in your home, where you pick up the receiver, get dial, tone, and then enter the numbers of whom you want to call, on a cell phone, you enter the numbers and press SEND. On a landline, the touchtone digits are transmitted as audio to the phone company’s equipment that ‘listens’ to them and processes your call.
On a cell phone, the phone number you dial is sent as a digital message to the cellular tower, not as audio. When you dial 911 on your cell phone, the digital message is not even one that contains the number! A digital message indicates, “This device wishes to place an Emergency call.” If you look closely at your phone, you will likely see that the phone has gone into EMERGENCY MODE. Depending on the phone, the carrier, and many other things, EMERGENCY MODE turns on Location Services, GPS, and whatever else is defined on the carrier profile for that device.
When your phone acquires service from your home or roaming carrier, it is given a service package with, among other things, what three-digit short codes should be recognized as EMERGENCY CALLS. Depending on the variables mentioned above, those numbers are most often 911, 112, 999, and 000, but I have commonly seen 113, 114, 114, 116, 117, and 118 also recognized.
Note: Calling 911 to ‘test’ when no emergency exists ties up valuable resources for dealing with REAL emergencies. Most 911 centers are already running reduced staffing levels. Please ONLY call 911 or any of these other emergency numbers if you have an actual life safety situation.
WHY THE ADDITIONAL NUMBERS? These are the most common emergency numbers around the globe. The idea is that you dial the most familiar number, especially if you’re in a foreign country and may not know the local emergency number. So let’s break down the myth:
Can you dial 112 and reach the Police? MORE THAN LIKELY – YES
Does your call get treated any differently by the cellular network? NO
Do the Police KNOW you have dialed another number? ABSOLUTELY NOT
Should you NOT PULL OVER for an unmarked police car?
This is where the situation can get very dangerous. The best advice that I have heard, and something that’s been confirmed by many people in law enforcement, is to do the following:
Turn on your emergency flashers.
Slow your vehicle to a safe speed where you are not impeding traffic.
Visually signal to the Officer that you see them.Pull over in an area where there are other people.
Call 911, explain the situation, indicate you are concerned for your safety, and follow their instructions.
Do not make any sudden or furtive movements.
I want to thank my dear friend Kelly for reaching out with this query (which goes back at LEAST a decade or more on the Internet). Now you know, and you can explain away these posts that do nothing but instill fear.
Mark J. Fletcher, ENP
VP Public Safety Solutions, 911inform
2023 Candidate for NENA Northeast Regional Director