It’s time France had just one emergency number

You need to have a decent memory to know all the different emergency numbers in France and that's just for the police, firemen and ambulance crews. But thankfully things could soon change.

It's time France had just one emergency number
Do you know which number you should dial to call the police? What about firefighters? Photo: AFP

France has a unhealthy amount of numbers you can call in an emergency.

In fact we’ve counted 12 in all, with the latest number being 3117 which was brought in after the terror attack on the Amsterdam-Paris train for members of the public to report any suspicious behaviour.

There are also other numbers to report all kinds of emergencies.

For the coastguard its 196, to report an aeronautical emergency its 191 and for missing children its 116000. Then there's 115 for emergency shelter and 119 to report children in danger.

You can call 222 to report dog poo on pavements and 666 for rude waiters. Just kidding of course.. 

But the main problem is that the police (dial 17), firemen (dial 18) and ambulance crews (dial 15), known as Samu all have different numbers in France.

It’s a tough task for anyone to remember the different numbers, let alone when facing the panic of an emergency. The US emergency number 911 and the UK’s 999, which links callers to police, firefighters and ambulance is far easier to recall.

And thankfully French firefighters are now in agreement.

At their annual meeting recently they called for the numbers 15, 17 and 18 to be ditched and replaced by just 112, which is already the functioning SOS number for all services anywhere in the EU.

“The emergency numbers are blooming and the citizens don’t understand anymore,” Eric Faure president of the national federation of firefighters (FNSPF) told his members recently.

For him the move to one emergency number would help improve “clarity, inefficiency as well as cost savings.”

In fact estimates by the federation suggest as much as €100 million could be saved each year on operating expenses.

“Earlier this year the new number 196 was created for maritime rescues. It annoyed us. When we should have one common number they are creating more,” Firefighter chief Eric Flores told the FNSPF congress earlier this month.

“The FNSPF believes that the proliferation of emergency numbers in France is confusing for the public and is counterproductive,” it said in a statement.

The federation “believes that 112 has become the only emergency number in France.”

At the moment there are around 100 emergency control centres dealing with calls to firefighters on 18, that’s added to the 400 operated by the police, gendarmes and Samu throughout the country.

But firefighters want to set up between 10 and 20 mayor centres around France to receive and sort calls to the number 112.

That number is currently a European emergency response number which can be dialed in all member states of the EU to alert police, ambulance and fire and rescue services.

By housing control centres under the one roof the FNSPF believes the response times can be cut and information between the different authorities can be better shared.

Let’s hope the firefighters get their way.

For more information on making emergency calls in France CLICK HERE.

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Two mountaineers killed and 9 injured in ice fall in Swiss mountains

A Frenchwoman and a Spaniard were killed and nine other mountaineers were injured on Friday in an ice fall in southwest Switzerland, police said following a rescue attempt involving several helicopters.

Two mountaineers killed and 9 injured in ice fall in Swiss mountains

Police received calls at 6.20 am reporting that mountaineers had been caught up in falling seracs — columns of glacial ice formed by crevasses — on the Grand Combin, a glacial massif near the Italian border in the Wallis region.

Seven helicopters with mountain rescue experts flew to the scene, finding 17 mountaineers split among several groups.

“Two people died at the scene of the accident,” Wallis police said in a statement. They were a 40-year-old Frenchwoman and a 65-year-old man from Spain.

Nine mountaineers were airlifted to hospitals in nearby Sion and in Lausanne. Two of them are seriously injured, police said.

Other mountaineers were evacuated by helicopter.

The regional public prosecutor has opened an investigation “to determine the circumstances of this event”, the police said.

The serac fall happened at an altitude of 3,400 metres in the Plateau de Dejeuner section along the Voie du Gardien ascent route.

The Grand Combin massif has three summits above 4,000 metres, the highest of which is the Combin de Grafeneire at 4,314 metres.

The police issued a note of caution about setting off on such high-altitude expeditions.

“When the zero-degree-Celsius isotherm is around 4,000 metres above sea level, it is better to be extra careful or not attempt the route if in doubt,” Wallis police said.

“The golden rule is to find out beforehand from the mountain guides about the chosen route and its current feasibility.”