The emergency number for America is usually 911. Many cell/mobile phones automatically dial it (or the local emergency number when you press and hold the 9 key. Obviously, opportunities for accidently doing this abound.

My phone also makes it more difficult to hang up, once the emergency number has been dialed -- it requires a separate set of keystrokes to hang up an emergency call. You cannot just press the END key.

Most cell carriers consider emergency calls to be free. They do not bill airtime for emergency calls, and emergency calls are often possible even when the phone is otherwise locked.

Finally, it has been my experience that American phone switching systems will connect you to 911 if you play with the switchhook too much. I was testing a phone line, lifting the receiver often. Once when I lifted the phone, I didn't get a dialtone -- I got a 911 operator instead! In a panic, I hung up on her, but she promptly called back. I was able to explain to her that everything was okay, and I wasn't actually trying to signal for help with a paperclip and some bare phone wires.

In the US, the feature that allows the 911 operator to call you back, and even send emergency services to your address, is called Enhanced 911.

While reading on the net about how to play Mary had a little Lamb or some song like that with the phone, I dialed the combination 112, which is the emergency number here in Germany. I was actually afraid I might reach someone from the random key-pressing, but I thought it wouldn't happen because I have to press 0 to reach an outside line. But I was just really bored so I didn't even try to make out the song out of the tone, I just put the receiver back on. Then somewhat like The Matrix, the phone rang.

Man: Brennt es bei Ihnen? Rough Translation: Is it burning by you? Actually: Is your place burning?
Me: Wie bitte?Sorry?
*Repeated a few times because I, foreigner, didn't get what he was saying.*
Man: Brennt es bei Ihnen? Sie haben Notruf angerufen.Is your place burning? You just called Emergency.

Followed by me apologizing profusely.

That probably means I don't need to first press 0 when my place is burning. Comforting thought. Now to the fact that my phone rings every morning at 7:59 AM...

29-12-2001 Fixed a typo. Mary didn't have a litte lamb, she had a little lamb. OK, now click sumbit.

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