In developed countries, emergency services such as the police can be telephoned during time-critical incidents. Response times are generally good, depending on competing simultaneous demands. By contrast, emergency services in many developing countries are typically difficult to access. This In Brief considers the challenges of establishing, operating and sustaining emergency toll-free telephone services in developing countries, with a focus on Papua New Guinea (PNG). An accompanying paper (Part 2) presents a case study of a toll-free police telephone service in PNG.