Emergency services in France

What to do in an emergency if I am not from France? Many of the families or independent people who just move or go as tourists to a new country, usually may not be prepared to react to an emergency in what can be called an unknown country. If you decide to move or visit France and make this country your new home, you should make sure that you, as well as your family members (in case you have a family), know how to get help in an unknown country. It is important to read about advice, vocabulary and more, to have a basic idea about the emergency numbers and location of hospitals in your surroundings because in France there is a large catalog to ask for help. As mentioned before, France has a large list of emergency numbers and each one for different types of emergency, but the pan-European emergency number by its numerals “112” can be called for any type of emergency and then an operator will direct it to the corresponding French department. It is recommended to use the number 112 when making a call from a mobile phone. However, it is not possible to call the number from a mobile without a SIM card. In case you do not speak French and call this line of service, you will not get many problems to use it, because there is an assistance of interpreters who speak 40 languages, and they are in order to anticipate your emergencies.

In case you need to get some health service in France, you may be asked to present a French health insurance or a private health insurance. Here is to explain the French medical terms, what to do if you have an emergency in France, and finally and what to do in case of accident or health emergency in France.

Important tips when calling French emergency services:

You must indicate your name, your telephone number, a location in the area where the help is required, if the emergency is happening, for example; fires and floods, you must indicate how many people require assistance and if there are weapons or dangerous substances involved. Don’t forget the code to your parking lot or apartment building. You should never hang up the phone, this until you receive the information to take control of the situation. Something very important, in case you need medication, or that you suffer from an illness, you should be aware of their names in French. If there are children involved, you should tell the operator their ages. In case you need to call an antivenom center or administer medication, you must provide the operator with the weight and it must be given in kilograms. In case the emergency is an intoxication, make sure you know with certainty what was the product consumed by the affected party, and if there is any left over from this product, it would be a good idea to provide it to those responsible who arrive attend the emergency.

Numbers for each type of emergency in France:

Pan-European emergency number: To dial you can use the numbers 112. The service by this number is completely free, so you should not worry about using it in an emergency situation. This number is a completely European number, at the time of calling you can request to be connected with an English-speaking operator. But this number has even more advantages because the number 114 is the same version but with the difference that it was made for people who are deaf or hard of hearing, the use of this number is completely via text messages.

Ambulance and emergency services (SAMU):

To get this emergency service you have to call to the number 15. The SAMU is a medical service that is coordinated to call in case of a high-severity medical emergency. There will always be a doctor, who will be available to determine the type of response that should be given to your emergency, and specifically, if an ambulance is required to attend the emergency. Otherwise, the cost of transportation provided by the ambulance will have to be held responsible by you, in the same way, there is the possibility of requesting a light medical vehicle (called as véhicule sanitaire léger or VSL) to be transported to the hospital.

Fire brigade:

This emergency number can be obtained by dialing the number 18. Les Sapeurs Pompiers is called to the French fire department, they can be contacted in cases of medical emergencies, traffic accidents or domestic accidents. This service works in conjunction with the SAMU service and employs professional, health, medical and volunteer brigades


To be able to acquire this emergency service you must dial the number 17. This number puts you in contact with the nearest emergency police services, no matter what type of police force is, either, Police Nationale or the Gendarmerie Nationale will be at your disposal in case of emergency. In case the situation is not of extreme urgency, write down the direct telephone number of the nearest police station (police station or gendarmerie).

Other types of emergency numbers available:

  • Out-of-hours doctors: 116 117 (from 2017)
  • SOS Drug/Alcohol Addiction: 113
  • Hepatitis information helpline: 08 00 84 08 00
  • Red Cross: 08 00 85 88 58
  • AIDS helpline: 08 00 84 08 00
  • Cancer helpline: 08 10 81 08 21
  • Dental helpline: 01 43 37 51 00
  • Psychiatric emergency: 01 45 65 81 08
  • Maritime emergency (calling from land): 196
  • Maritime emergency (not in land): VHF Channel 16
  • Aeronautical emergency: 191
  • Find a duty pharmacy: 3237
  • Medical advice line (SOS Médecins): 08 20 33 24 24

Explanation of the emergency services in France:

In France you can find three main emergency services: the SAMU (Service d’Aide Médicale d’Urgence), the fire brigade and the police. The SAMU is the national emergency service that is directed to the public, it only takes action in very serious cases. The SAMU has ambulances and specialized medical equipment ready to assist in very serious emergencies. It should be noted that the Les Sapeurs pompiers or the French fire brigade, is well trained and equipped to deal with medical emergencies. They can offer ambulance services with highly specialized vans for emergencies. In France it is common for firefighters to be the first to deal with injuries, and domestic accidents, this happens more often in rural areas, because their equipment will give them faster access to the area where the emergency occurs. They coordinate with the emergency services of the SAMU and dentists ( dentiste garde ) and if the situation so requires, they will call the specialized emergency medical service. As mentioned previously, the national police of France are divided into two units by the National Police and the National Gendarmerie. To clarify in which situations each action takes action, in general terms, the national police is responsible for urban areas, while the gendarmerie covers the rural regions. The national police not only attend to emergencies, they are authorized to carry out criminal investigations, carry out security operations such as traffic control and identity checks, while the military gendarmerie also carries out criminal investigations and other security activities involving airports, military locations, coastal areas and the countryside. From any area you call the police number, you will be directed to the appropriate service for the situation.

It is advisable to note the normal number, consisting of eight digits for the local police or gendarmerie station. In large cities, a second police force called the municipal police, headed by the local council, has limited powers within the district. The municipal police are in charge of the application of the law in general, minor traffic and domestic offenses and loss of property. The French government launched an application for smartphones completely free, with the functionality of alerting users about possible security incidents, including the main natural, technological and terrorist risks. It is called SAIP (Système d’alerte et d’information des populations), it is available in two languages, English and French, and can be obtained in the stores of the operating system that you use. In France you can also use an SOS Helpline completely in English, which is administered by volunteers, this helpline, provides support to expatriates in a variety of issues, from how to understand a tax form to finding an English-speaking doctor, to dealing with loneliness and isolation, commonly felt by expatriates, or suicidal thoughts and crises….

Emergency siren

There is no reason to be alarmed, or to give up the field (at least most times) if you can get to hear a siren sounding every first Wednesday, of every month zoning at noon. This is done in all France, and its reason is that every Wednesday of every month, at noon the sirens are tested with three consecutive explosions of almost two minutes, each separated by 5 minutes of silence.

Emergency French phrases

Any person who is in French, whether as a tourist visiting the country, or as recently moved to this must practice frequently as to give clear directions in phrases, indications such as your name, address and phone number, there are possibilities of that the operator who knows his emergency speaks English, but the best thing is not to take the risk. In case that happens and you do not have the slightest idea about vocabulary in French, it would be advisable to look for a person in the surroundings who can communicate in English and French, so you can offer help.

In any case, it is best to be cautious and study French emergency vocabulary:

  • To say police: The Police Nationale or gendarmerie.
  • To say Fire brigade: Les sapeurs pompiers.
  • To say Emergency services / ambulance: SAMU.
  • To say Poisoning emergency: Urgence d’empoisonnement.
  • To say Road emergency services: Services d’urgence routièret.
  • To say Emergency numbers: Numéros d’urgence.
  • to say It’s an emergency: C’est un cas d’urgence.
  • to say My name is …: Je m’apelle …
  • to say My telephone number is …: Mon number of telephone is …
  • to say I live at …: J’habite à …
  • to say Help! Au secours!
  • to say Ambulance: une ambulance; J’ai besoin d’une ambulance. (I need an ambulance.)
  • to say Heart attack: un crise cardiaque.
  • to say Stroke: un attaque cérébrale.
  • to say Choke: s’étouffer.
  • to say Difficulty breathing / gasping: haleter or difficulté à respire.
  • To say bleed: saigner.
  • to say Hemorrhage: une hémorragie.
  • to say Concussion: une commotion cérébrale.
  • to say Diabetic: diabetic
  • to say Labor: accouchement / accoucher.
  • to say to be poisoned: s’empoisonner.

Utility service urgencies

In France there is no national number for any of the public services, of all those in this country that have direct lines of urgency according to the region where you live. One recommendation is that you annotate the number assigned to you for your area; You can find it marked on each payment receipt for gas / electricity / water services. Those mentioned above are not the only numbers for emergency lines that are in France, in this country there are emergency numbers for Paris, and for Anti-poison centers.

You can also find emergency numbers to:

Emergency and medical response, which include services such as: out-of-hours doctors, SOS Drug / Alcohol Addiction, hepatitis information helpline Cancer helpline, and much more. Crime-related response, with services such as: terror / kidnapping hotline, rapine hotline, racial discrimination helpline and etc. Crime-related response, with services such as: terror / kidnapping hotline, rapine hotline, racial discrimination helpline and etc. And finally, there are also lines with services for non-medical response and lost or stolen credit cards. You know, the best thing to be a tourist or inhabitant of a completely unknown country is to inform you as much as you can about it.


Thegoodlifefrancecom. (2013, 13 March 2013). French terms and phrases for a medical emergency. [Weblog]. Retrieved 9 May 2018, from https://www.thegoodlifefrance.com/french-terms-and-phrases-for-a-medical-emergency/

Smartexpatcom. (2018, no-date). Emergency Numbers in France. [Weblog]. Retrieved 9 May 2018, from https://smartexpat.com/france/how-to-guides/health/emergencies

Frenchasyoulikeitcom. (2013, 29 March 2013). French Health Emergencies Numbers and Key Phrases – French as you like it. [Weblog]. Retrieved9 May 2018, from https://www.frenchasyoulikeit.com/how-to-deal-with-health-emergencies-in-french/

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