The European emergency number 112, which could have contributed to timely evacuations ahead of the deadly storms that pummeled Halkidiki on Wednesday night, will be up and running at the end of 2019, Digital Governance Minister Kyriakos Pierrakakis announced Friday, during a visit to the operation center of the General Secretariat of Civil Protection.
“The system 112 is innovative, it will be available in its entirety at the end of the year. Today we have checked that its core infrastructure is working. Our main job now is that this can work on all devices. This also requires actions from us. You will see them soon. There is no time for delays,” he said.
“I cannot accept that in 2019, even one life can be lost because that person could not be notified,” Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said after the meeting with the ministry leadership.
During the visit, officials tested the system by sending mock emergency messages via mobile networks.
The General Secretariat for Civil Protection and regional authorities in northern Greece had been put on alert from Wednesday evening after the National Meteorological Service (EMY) warned of gale-force storms in central and northern Greece.
But a year after the deadly July 2018 Mati fires, the fallout of the Halkidiki storms, where seven people were killed, demonstrated that the 112 hotline continues to be faulty.
There appear to be two key problems: the system of automatic geolocation is not yet properly operational; neither is the function which sends out warnings by text message to the cellphones of people in danger.
According to sources, the geolocation of those calling 112 can take up to 15 minutes under the current system; once it is upgraded, as authorities had pledged to do by early this year, it will be immediate.