Emergency Numbers in France

Who to call and what to say in an emergency...

Service Telephone
Medical help/SAMU 15
Police/Police Nationale (Gendarmerie) 17
Fire & accident/Sapeurs Pompiers 18
SOS - all services (recommended when calling from a mobile) 112
SOS - all services (hearing assisted) 114
Emergency Shelter 115
Child in danger (child protection) 119
Missing Child 116 000
Emergency: Sea & Lake (calling from land) 112 or 196
Emergency at Sea (calling from sea) VHF Channel 16
Tel: 112

The caller must:

  1. State the location where assistance is needed
  2. State their name and telephone number
  3. State what happened, and if it is still happening
  4. State how many people need help
  5. State if there are weapons involved

All emergency numbers can be reached from pay phones, without the use of a phone card or money. It is also possible to call emergency numbers from a locked mobile phone (112 might work even when the message "no network available" is displayed).

European SOS 112

The number 112 can be dialled to reach emergency services - medical, fire and police - from anywhere in Europe. This Pan-European emergency number 112 can be called from any telephone (landline, pay phone or mobile cellular phone). Calls are free. It can be used for any life-threatening situation, including:

  • Serious medical problems (accident, unconscious person, severe injuries, chest pain, seizure)
  • Any type of fire (house, car)
  • Life-threatening situations (crimes)
  • Information on the 112 number from the European Commission website
Pharmacies/Chemist/Drug Store

Pharmacies are generally open from Monday to Saturday from 08:30 to 19:30. Many pharmacies close between 12:00 and 14:00, although in shopping centres and large towns, pharmacies will stay open non-stop.

At least one local pharmacy will be open on Sundays. Details of and schedule for this "duty pharmacy" (pharmacie de garde) can be found in every pharmacy window, in local newspapers or by contacting the local commissariat.

Find a duty pharmacy (in French) Enter or validate your area postcode when prompted; then chosen the time a pharmacy is required when prompted.  The details of available pharmacies are given. Tel: 32 37
Wasp and Hornet Nests

In the event of a hornet nest or wasp nest in the home or garden, a private company (entreprise de desinsectisation) should be contacted to have it removed. In some rare communes, the fire brigade can come to the home to destroy wasp and hornet nests, although there will probably be a charge. The local town hall will be able to advise if this is the case in the commune of residence.

Emergency Words and Terminology

Please note: these phrases have been simplified for easy communication by a non-French speaker. They are not necessarily grammatically correct French.

English French
Accident Un accident
I have had an accident J'ai eu un accident
Injured Blessé(e)
Unconscious Perdre connaissance
Bleeding Hémorragie
Heart attack Crise cardiaque
Stroke AVC (Un accident vasculaire cérébral)
(pronounced "aiy vaiy caiy")
Drowning Noyade (se noyer)
Burn Brûlure
Very sick Très malade
In labour/having contractions Avoir contractions
I am in labour Je suis en train d'accoucher
Need a doctor Besoin un médecin (Il me faut un médecin)
Need an ambulance Besoin une ambulance (Il me faut une ambulance)
Fire Feu
The house is on fire La maison a pris feu
The car is on fire La voiture a pris feu
Burglar/intruder Cambrioleur/Intrus
I am being burgled Je suis en train de me faire cambrioler
Someone is in the house Quelqu'un est chez moi (Quelqu'un est entré par effraction chez moi)
Emergency Une urgence
Help me Aidez moi
Help! Au secours
Understanding the French Emergency Services
  • In the event of an emergency dial the appropriate number: medical (SAMU) 15, police 17, fire and accident 18 or the Pan-European number 112
  • Explain the situation to the operator (English may be spoken but there is no guarantee). Calls to 112 are received by either SAMU or the fire brigade and then instantly rerouted to the appropriate service or handled on the spot

The services reached by dialling 15 and 18 operate in conjunction, with the emergency teams having skills, training and facilities suitable to many situations. "Firefighters" are qualified to provide first rescue and ambulance services.

Medical emergencies and accidents (SAMU)

SAMU: The Emergency Medical Assistance Service (Service d'Aide Médicale d'Urgence) reached by dialling 15 or 112.

There is always a qualified doctor is on hand to determine the most suitable response to a call and implement it. This may involve giving the caller information or advice, or sending the appropriate emergency vehicle:

  • an ambulance for a street accident or home emergency
  • a private ambulance
  • a mobile resuscitation or intensive care vehicle or medical helicopter

SMUR: The mobile emergency resuscitation service (Service Mobile d'Urgence et de Réanimation, SMUR) vehicles are equipped with at least one qualified emergency doctor (or an anaesthetist), a nurse and a paramedic.

H-MICU: In the case of serious accident or severe illness a Hospital Mobile Intensive Care Unit (H-MICU), (UMH-Unité Mobile Hospitalière) is sent. This is a rapid intervention vehicle or helicopter equipped to provide full hospital-standard life support services.

The French approach is to treat the emergency on-site and vehicles and personnel are equipped and trained for this. The reason is that recovery rates are found to be much higher when a victim is treated as soon as possible.

Sapeurs-pompiers (firefighters and first rescue)

The sapeurs-pompiers are the firefighters of France, supervised and trained by the Ministry of the Interior (Ministère de l'Intérieur). Firefighting brigades work closely with SAMU and are trained and equipped to respond to fires, auto accidents and emergency medical situations. They include professional (SPP), health and medical (SSSM) and volunteer (SVP) brigades.

Emergency siren

Nationwide, every first Wednesday of the month at noon (12:00), the emergency sirens which operate nationwide are tested. The sirens can be heard wailing as the are tested in three sequences of 1 minute 41 seconds each, separated by a silence of five seconds.

  • Find out what to do in the event of a hearing a siren alert that is not the Wednesday test (in French).

If the situation arises, information about what to do will be provided by the France Inter or France Info radio stations.

Understanding the French Police Services

National Gendarmerie (Gendarmerie Nationale): The military police force operating under management by the French Ministry of Defence (Ministère de la Défense). It is responsible for policing the countryside, rivers and coastal areas, and small towns which fall outside the jurisdiction of the Police Nationale. The force is also authorised to carry out criminal investigations, crowd control and security activities of airports and military locations and attend ceremonial and state occasions.

National Police (Police Nationale): The civil law enforcement agency of France, with jurisdiction over cities and large towns. The National Police comes under the management of the Ministry of the Interior (Ministère de l'Intérieur) and is responsible for security operations (patrols, traffic control, identity checks) and conducting criminal enquiries.

Local Municipal Police (Police Municipale): Responsible for local policing in towns and villages, law enforcement, lost property and handling minor traffic or domestic offences.

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