Emergency Services SMS Registration

Blue LightDid you know that in the UK you can use your mobile phone’s SMS text messaging to summon help from the emergency services? This can literally be a life saver when out in the hills with a very poor or intermittent mobile signal. SMS uses a different technology to communicate than voice and data so it doesn’t need the same quality of reception. Transmission is also very fast and even with just a moment of poor reception, just as you press send, you could be able to summon help.

However, to use the service your mobile phone’s number must be pre-registered with the emergency services emergencySMS service. This is something that is best done before you need their help!

Here’s how to do it now:

  • Send a SMS (text) message, “REGISTER“, to 112. (112 is the European emergency number, recognised in hundreds of countries including many outside the EU, however, it is also recognised by GSM mobile cellular networks.)
  • Wait a few seconds for the reply.
  • Read the reply in full (it isn’t very long) and reply with another SMS message, “YES“.
  • You’ll get a final response saying your number is now registered. Yay! Don’t reply to that one though or else you might find the emergency services swing in to action trying to save you! (And your number will get barred from the service for repeat inappropriate use.)

Now you can use your mobile phone to send SMS messages in an emergency. Simple.

Of course the SMS message should contain all the basic data the emergency services need to organise help. This should include:


  • Which Emergency Service is needed: Police, Ambulance, Coastguard, or Fire. Note that the Police are responsible for organising Mountain Rescue, so always ask for the Police if you need help in the hills.
  • What is the problem.
  • Where is help needed. Some location information may be automatically generated by the mobile network, i.e. the location of the cellular mast that receives the SMS text message. However, you should try to provide enough information, such as landmarks, address, etc., for the emergency services to find you quickly. This is especially true for locations in the mountains. If you have a smart-phone you may be able to obtain a grid-reference or similar from a mapping application you may have on your phone before sending the SMS text message. Failing that, use a map!

So for example the SMS text message might be:

Police. Twisted ankle while fell-walking, will be late for cakes!
At Styhead Tarn in the Lake District.

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