Emergency in France: Who to call and what to say

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.

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

Some handy phrases

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.

Sapeurs Pompiers (18) should be your first port of call in an emergency. Photo : AFP.

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.

Call 17 to report a crime or offense that requires immediate police response. Photo : AFP.

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.


Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.
For members


Revealed: The best cities in France to be a student

Every year, QS best student cities releases its ranking of the world's most student-friendly locations. This year four French cities made the list.

Revealed: The best cities in France to be a student

As a student, some cities are more attractive than others. Each year QS rankings assess 140 cities around the world based on what they have to offer students in terms of their affordability, quality of life, the opinions of former students who studied there, as well as general desirability, employer activity, and how many students live there. 

This year, for the 2023 ranking, five French cities – Paris, Lyon, Toulouse, and Montpellier – made the list, with Paris making the top 10. 

Paris, Lyon and Toulouse have been listed in the ‘best cities’ ranking for several years, but this will be the first year for Montpellier. In order to be included, the population must be a minimum of 250,000 people and the city must be home to at least two universities that have been listed in the QS World University Rankings.

READ ALSO 8 ways to save money as a student in France

This year, France’s cities have moved up in the list. Across the board, two factors improved: “student mix” and desirability. The former measures what proportion of the city is made up of students, as well as the diversity of students and the inclusivity of the city and country for students, while the latter measures general questions like safety, pollution, and how appealing the city is to respondents.

On the other hand, affordability and “student voice” – the rating students gave the city’s friendliness, sustainability, diversity, etc, as well as how many students continue to live there after graduation – went down this year. However, affordability has decreased across the board in student cities around the world. 

France’s cities

Paris – The French capital came in 8th place worldwide and remains an extremely attractive destination for potential students. Paris is home to nine institutions ranked on the QS World University Rankings, and scored well with employment prospects.

The city came in seventh place for “employer activity” this year. The ranking said this is due to Paris graduates being “highly respected by employers” and that “there are lots of international firms based in the city’s business district which frequently hire skilled graduates.” In the student survey, the prospect of being surrounded by “beautiful monuments, history and culture” was appealing, as well as Paris’ nightlife. 

READ ALSO These are the culture shocks you will experience as a foreign student in Paris

Lyon – The gastronomy centre of France ranked 45th in the world, scoring well in terms of “student mix” and affordability. Lyon was credited for low tuition fees for international students. In surveys, students reported enjoying the ‘diversity of students from across the world’ in Lyon.

Toulouse – La ville rose in France’s south west moved up eight places in the ranking this year. Making it into the top 100, Toulouse came out at 78th. Toulouse was praised for its cost of living, as the city offers significantly lower average costs for rent – for example, a one bedroom apartment in the city centre an average of €712 per month, compared to €1,410 in Paris.

Montpellier – This year was Montpellier’s debut on the list, ranking 199th. The city performed well for its first year, especially in terms of affordability – ranking 35th.  

What about the non-French cities?

An overall trend is that cities are becoming less affordable for students.

In terms of rankings, London, held onto its first place spot, which it has had for the past four years, while Seoul and Munich tied for second place. The other European cities to make the top 10 list were Zurich (4th) and Berlin (6th).