Emergency numbers and information

Emergency numbers in France are free and available 24h/24h. However due to persistent abuse by bogus and nuisance calls, the lines can be overloaded or jammed so at times patience is necessary. Like most emergency call centres around the world, France’s emergency numbers are often swamped with calls. SAMU receives approximately 2500 calls a day and France’s fire service attends 9600 incidents a day amounting to more than 3.5 million a year. However, a healthy 30% of calls are dealt with over the phone with either pertinent information or medical advice given resulting in no further action needed.

What information do I need to convey to the operator?

When and if you encounter a situation that needs one of the emergency services, be ready to convey relevant information to help the operator send the right service. The government risques website asks callers to observe, understand and relate 3 vital points.

  • Who are you? Are you the victim, witness, passerby, and be ready to give a telephone number where you can always be reached.
  • Where are you? Be ready to provide the exact address and location of where the emergency service is needed.
  • Why are you calling the emergency service? Give the reasons why you require the emergency service, its severity and urgency.

Remember, the more information you can give the telephone operator, the more effective the response. Your time on the telephone is not wasted and does not delay the final response. Listen carefully to any advice given in preparation to the arrival of the emergency service as it may save a life.

French emergency numbers – Numéros d’Urgence

 SAMU  Ambulance  15
 Police/Gendarmerie  Police  17
 Pompiers  Fire  18
 Numéro d’urgence européen
(permettant d’accéder aux trois services ci-dessus)
 European emergency number
(in place of the 15, 17 and 18)
 Personnes sourdes ou malentendantes  Hearing impaired  114
 Urgences sociales (ou “SAMU social”)  Social emergencies  115
 Enfants disparus  Missing children  116 000
 Enfance maltraitée  Child abuse  119
 Sauvetage dans les airs  Air rescue  191
 Sauvetage en mer  Sea rescue/coast guard  196
 Alerte attentat – Alerte enlèvement  Attack/abduction alert  197

SAMU (Service d’Aide Médical Urgente) – 15

SAMU are the service to call when there is a medical emergency. Callers will often be redirected to a Doctor who may be able to ease the problem but if not an ambulance will be dispatched to tend and care for the patient.

Call SAMU if someone…

  • is in urgent medical need
  • is in severe discomfort
  • is in a comatose state
  • is severely bleeding
  • has acute chest pain
  • is experiencing difficulties breathing
  • has stopped breathing
  • has been burned
  • has been poisoned

Police/Gendarmerie – 17

Calling the police is for when a person needs an immediate response to an offence either in progress or that has already taken place. It is not for non-emergency enquiries that do not require an immediate response, those should be taken direct to a police/Gendarme station. The emergency call centre will dispatch police immediately to the scene, calling on the nearest located team and/or those best suited to the situation. For the person making the call, try hard to describe the assailant or the situation, noting important details (what they were wearing, number plates, which direction they left etc.).

Here are some reasons why you might call 17

  • violent behaviour
  • agressive behaviour
  • burglary
  • theft
  • vehicle accident

Pompiers – 18

Firefighters are not only called out to fires but also when there are situations of immediate danger or, to scenes of accidents in the home or on the road, especially where there are trapped victims.

Typical reasons to call the Fire service are,

  • Fire
  • Gas leaks
  • risk of collapse
  • burial
  • burns
  • electrocution
  • accident

Sea rescue/coast guard – 196

By dialing 196 a caller is put directly in touch with the organisation whose responsibility it is to safeguard human life at sea. The operational centre is responsible for the constant surveillance of its coastal waters and for coordinating rescue missions.

Reasons to call the French coast guard

  • If you are at sea and in distress
  • if there is an emergency at sea
  • if you have concern for someone at sea that you have lost touch with or hasn’t returned at a specified time
  • if you observe something abnormal at sea

Deaf, hearing impaired or unable to communicate verbally – 114

A unique number is provided for anyone who is unable to use the normal emergency numbers due to impaired hearing or speech impediment. The number is solely for fax or text and does not receive voice calls. All fax and text calls are sent direct to the national relay centre located at Grenoble University Hospital. From there specially trained staff process the messages and contact the appropriate emergency service.

A person would use the 114 number if they are hard of hearing, deaf or has a severe speech impediment, are the victim or witness to an emergency situation that requires the intervention of any of the emergency services. As with all other emergency numbers, the number is free of charge and available 24/7.

For more information on the use of 114…