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, 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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Why 2023 (especially May) is a great year for holidays in France

Did you know that there are good years and bad years for holidays in France? Well 2023 is a good year, very good in fact . . .

Why 2023 (especially May) is a great year for holidays in France

France is pretty generous when it comes to jours fériés (public holidays) – in total there are 11 public holidays every year, apart from in Alsace-Lorraine where people get 13 days off for historical reasons (that’s explained here).

However all public holidays in France are taken on the day they fall on that year, rather than being moved to the nearest Monday as is the case in some other countries.

This creates the concept of ‘good years’ and ‘bad years’ for holidays, and we’re happy to report that 2023 is a good year.

Faire le pont

If the holiday happens to falls on a Saturday or a Sunday, then workers don’t get any extra time off work and the holiday is ‘lost’ – both 2021 and 2022 saw a lot of lost holidays for this reason.

If the holiday falls on a weekday then most workers get the day off.

If it falls on a Monday or a Friday it means a nice long weekend, but if it falls on a Tuesday or a Thursday then people can faire le pont (do the bridge) or take one day of their annual holiday entitlement to create a nice four-day break. 


In 2023, only two of France’s 11 jours fériés fall on weekends – New Year’s Day (Sunday) and Armistice Day (Saturday).

December 25th is the only official holiday day over Christmas in France – December 24th and 26th are normal working days – and in 2023 that’s on a Monday.

Only two holidays in 2023 fall on either a Tuesday or a Thursday, so you will not have many opportunities to faire le pont this year. Holidays that can be ‘bridged’ in 2023 are Ascension Day on Thursday, May 18th, and Assumption, on Tuesday, August 15th.

There is one opportunity to faire le viaduc (take two days off to ‘bridge’ to a Wednesday) and that is All Saints Day on November 1st.


May always has two holidays – May Day on May 1st and VE Day on May 8th – but there are two other spring holidays whose dates change each year – the Christian festivals of Ascension and Pentecost.

This year both of these fall in May, giving a whopping four public holidays, all of which are on week days (although not all workers get Pentecost as a day off, some practice ‘solidarity day’ instead).

Pentecost: The French public holiday where people work for free

Here is the full list of 2023 holidays in France:

Sunday, January 1st – New Year’s Day
Monday, April 10th – Easter Monday
Monday, May 1st – Worker’s Day
Monday May 8th – V-E Day
Thursday, May 18th – Ascension Day
Monday May 29th – Whit Monday (Lundi de Pentecôte – for some workers only).
Friday, July 14th – Bastille Day (Fête Nationale)
Tuesday, August 15th – The Assumption (l’Assomption)
Wednesday, November 1st – All Saints’ Day (Toussaint)
Saturday, November 11th – Armistice Day
Monday, December 25th – Christmas Day