YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–Armenia will soon have an integrated national system of emergency phone calls modeled on the U.S. 911 service, Emergency Situations Minister Armen Yeritsian announced on Friday.
The Armenian police, ambulance, firefighter and rescue services have for decades operated separate hotlines for people requiring urgent help.
Yeritsian said the new service to be introduced by the Ministry of Emergency Situations will be able to process all types of aid calls and redirect them accordingly. “If, for example, a person calls 911 to receive appropriate assistance, employees of our ministry and law-enforcement bodies will jointly come to their aid,” he told a news conference.
“All the existing services will remain,” said Yeritsian. “We will simply seek to ensure that … if people call 911, they get a better service. And if those other services feel that they are redundant, they won’t exist anymore.”
“The new 911 service will be more integrated and, in my view, do a better job,” he added.
The minister also acknowledge that his ministry, which controls the national fire-fighting and rescue services, needs to improve its emergency operations. He agreed in particular that firefighters have occasionally been too slow to respond to fires breaking out across Armenia.
“But these shortcomings are such that we can rectify them with our daily work,” said Yeritsian.
Obsolete equipment and a lack of state funding are seen as the main reasons for those shortcomings. The Armenian fire-fighters received a serious boost last summer when they received 28 Japanese fire engines donated by Japan’s government.