The 112 number is free and can be accessed in all European Union countries (European Commission)

The European Commission has launched a campaign to remind people of the 112 emergency services phone number.

Tour operators and travel agents have joined the commission in promoting the emergency number.

Neelie Kroes, vice-president of the commission, wrote a letter to the European Travel Agents' and Tour Operators' Association encouraging participation in the campaign.

In the letter, Kroes says the singular emergency number for European countries has "great value" as people increasingly travel to other countries for business and leisure.

She wrote: "However, 112 only helps if people know about it. A recent Eurobarometre survey shows that only a quarter (27 percent) of EU citizens could spontaneously identify 112 as the number of call police, fire brigade or medical services anywhere in the EU.

"I strongly believe that companies in your organisation can play a key role in raising awareness about 112 by reaching out to those who are travelling to a foreign destination. You can save lives."

Kroes invited organisations in the travel industry to help raise awareness of the emergency number through websites, brochures and vouchers.

Operators speak English

"It is possible to call 112 from fixed and mobile phones to contact any emergency service," the EU erxplained.

"When a person dials 112, a specially trained operator will answer the call. Depending on the national organisation of emergency services, the operator will either deal with the request directly or transfer the call to the most appropriate emergency service.

"Operators in many countries can answer the calls not only in their national language but also in English or French.

"If the caller does not know where he is, the operator will identify where the person making the call is physically located and will pass it to the emergency authorities so that these can help immediately."

As well as EU countries, 112 is also available to use in Switzerland and South Africa.