Information problems arising from location enquiries in Estonian emergency calls


Keywords: emergency calls, conversation analysis, location enquiries, information problems

This paper examines interactional problems arising from location formulations in Estonian emergency calls, focusing on call-takers’ questions and the caller’s answers to them. The goal of this paper is to identify the cause of interactional problems in emergency calls and to determine the party from whose action the problem arises. The analysis draws on corpus data consisting of Estonian emergency calls. For this article, 50 emergency calls containing 140 questions and answers about location were analysed.

Location is one of the three most important pieces of information in Estonian emergency calls. At the same time, it is the most problematic aspect of Estonian emergency calls: 44% of all our sample answers given about location proved to be problematic.

According to our study, most the location problems arose form inadequate information, which made up 90% of all the problematic answers. The main subcategories within the aforementioned answers were occurrences where the caller either did not have the information needed (30%) or the caller had the information but did not relay it sufficiently well (30%). A considerable amount of problems were related to the different perspectives of the caller and the call-taker (20%): one sees the location in real life, whereas the other only has access to the information marked on the map. Less common were problems caused by the information given by the caller being outdated (9%) or by the caller being unsure of the information they were relaying (9%). Lastly, 2% of all the problems of information were caused by that the information the call-taker requested simply did not exist.

The source of interactional problems can be different, e.g. the caller, the call-taker or a third party, and the problems cannot always be solved. However, the problematic instances in emergency calls could be reduced by providing call-takers with some pointers on managing a call. This will be the topic of a subsequent analysis.


Piret Upser (b. 1995), MA, University of Tartu, Estonian and Finno-Ugric Linguistics, PhD Student (Jakobi 2, 50090 Tartu), piret.upser@ut.ee