Emergency in France: Who to call and what to say

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Emergency in France: Who to call and what to say
Make sure you know who to call in an emergency in France. Photo: AFP

We hope you will never need these, but if you do have an emergency while you are in France, these are the numbers you will need to call, and the kind of questions you are likely to be asked.


You can report anything on 112, the European general emergency phone number, and they will direct you to the relevant services. But knowing the exact number to call will ensure a faster response in a situation where time is critical.
If you are hearing impaired there is an SMS service on 114.

Graphic: ServicePublicFr

Who to call in life-threatening situations?

Call 18 if someone's life is in danger. This number connects to the fire services (Sapeurs Pompiers) who provide rapid medical intervention and rescue.

They deal with accidents and emergencies such as fire, gas leaks, road accidents, risk of collapse, burial and electrocution, and also medical emergencies.

Some handy phrases

Je vois un feu de forêt/un incendie - I can see a forest fire/a fire

READ ALSO What to do if you see a wildfire in France

Il y a eu un accident de voiture. There has been a car accident.

Il y a eu une explosion de gaz. There has been a gas explosion.

Il (elle) est gravement blessé(e). He (she) is seriously injured.

And if you have trouble remembering that number, a group of firefighters in Lille made this topless video to remind people of the number to call.


Who to call about a critical medical emergency?

Call 15 to alert the SAMU (service d'aide médicale urgente) to critical health and medical situations which require urgent medical attention such as severe chest pain, breathing difficulties, hemorrhage, coma, extreme burns or intoxication.

Some handy phrases

Il (elle) est inconscient(e), il (elle) ne respire plus. He (she) is unconscious, he (she) has stopped breathing.

S’il vous plait, appelez une ambulance. Please call for an ambulance. 

Où se trouve le service des urgences le plus proche? Where is the nearest A&E? 

Who to call to report a crime?

Call 17 to report a crime or offense that requires immediate police response such as assault, burglary or pickpocketing.

The Police Nationale is responsible for Paris and other urban areas whilst the gendarmerie is responsible for small towns and rural areas. The Compagnie Républicaine de la Sécurité (CRS), often known as the riot police, deals with public disturbances such as crowd control whilst the gendarmes deal with general law and order. 

READ ALSO Policiers to gendarmes - who does what in the French police forces?

Some handy phrases

Je me suis fait agresser. I have been assaulted.

Il y a eu une agression (au couteau). There has been a (knife) attack.

Il y a une émeute. There is a riot.


Who to call about a terror attack or kidnapping? 

Call 197 to alert the authorities to a terror attack or share details about a terror suspect. The hotline is also used in the case of kidnapping.

Some handy phrases

Pouvez-vous venir rapidement, il y a eu une attaque. Can you come quickly, an attack has occurred.

Who to call about a maritime emergency?

Call 196 to alert the French coastguard (centre opérationnel de surveillance et de sauvetage en mer - CROSS) about a sea or lake emergency such as missing persons or anything else that seems abnormal. You can use VHF Channel 16114 to signal a maritime emergency by radio when not on land.

Who to call about homelessness?

Call 115 to reach the emergency shelter hotline if you risk homelessness. It can also be used to report anyone who appears to be in social distress.

Who to call about child abuse?

Call 119 to report any form of child abuse or exploitation.

Who to call about an aeronautical emergency?

Call 191 for air rescue in the case of plane accident or disappearance.

Who to call if in doubt?

Call 112 if in doubt (or 114 for people with hearing and speaking difficulties, who are also able to communicate by text or fax). This is the Universal European Emergency Services who can direct you to the correct line.

The number is available free of charge everywhere in the EU from all phones including mobiles and does not require prepaid credit or a valid SIM card. The operators speak over 40 languages including English.



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Anonymous 2020/07/23 12:15
What happened to the idea of just having one number?

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