Emergency numbers in France and support helplines
What emergency numbers should you call in France? Our guide to French emergency medical or crime-related numbers and non-medical helplines for lost property and general enquiries will prepare you for the worst should you encounter any pressing emergencies or require any help in France.
Too many expatriate families are caught unprepared to cope with an emergency in their new country. If you're calling France you’re new home, make sure you and all your family members know how to get help by with these tips and keep a handy list of France's important emergency numbers.
France has an infamously long list of emergency numbers for different services but the pan-European emergency number 112 can also be called for any type of emergency and after, an operator will direct you to the appropriate French department. It’s is advised to dial 112 when calling from mobile phones. However, it is not possible to call the number from a mobile without a sim card. Callers who don’t speak French would also have no problem communicating their issues due to the assistance of interpreters who speak 40 languages.
If you need to access French healthcare services or visit a French hospital, you may be asked to present French health insurance or private health insurance. This guide to French emergency numbers explains French medical terms, what to do in an emergency in France, and what to do in an accident or health emergency in France.
Important tips when calling French emergency services
Remember these tips when calling any emergency service hotline:
- State your name, telephone number, location where help is needed, the situation and if it’s still happening, how many people require help and whether there are weapons or dangerous substances involved.
- Don't forget the code to your parking lot or apartment building.
- Never hang up until you are told to do so.
- If you have known medical problems or regularly take prescription drugs, make sure you know how to say their names in French to the operator.
- If you have children, be prepared to cite their ages and how much they weigh (in kilograms) in case you need to call an anti-poison centre or to administer medication.
- If dealing with intoxications, make sure to inform them of what was taken and if possible, give them the rest of what was consumed.
- You can see which numbers to call depending on the emergency in France (in French).
Pan-European emergency number: 112 or 114 (for hearing assistance)
These general numbers can be called free of charge during any emergency from your mobile phone. As it's a Europe-wide number, you can also ask to be connected to an English-speaking operator. Those who are deaf or hard of hearing could send text messages to 114.
Ambulance and emergency services (SAMU): 15
The SAMU is the coordinated service to call in case of any serious medical emergency. A qualified doctor is always available to determine the type of response that best fits your situation, specifically, whether you need an ambulance. Otherwise, you’ll have to carry the cost of the ambulance transport. Alternatively, you could request a light medical vehicle (véhicule sanitaire léger or VSL) to get to hospital.
Fire brigade: 18
The French fire brigade, called les sapeurs pompiers, can also be called in cases of medical emergencies, such as traffic and domestic accidents. They work closely with the SAMU and employ professional, health, medical and volunteer brigades.
This number puts you in contact with the appropriate emergency police services nearest you, whether that is the Police Nationale or the Gendarmerie Nationale. For non-urgent situations, make a note of the direct phone number for your nearest police station (commissariat de police or gendarmerie).
An explanation of national emergency services in France
There are three main emergency services in France: the SAMU (Service d'Aide Médicale d'Urgence), the fire brigade and the police. The SAMU is the national, publicly run emergency service that deals only with very serious cases. The SAMU provides both ambulances and specialist medical teams.
It is important to note that the French fire brigade, les sapeurs pompiers, is also trained and equipped to deal with medical emergencies. They provide an ambulance service with their specially equipped vans. In France, it is very often the fire brigade who are called first to deal with road injuries and domestic accidents and in many areas, especially rural regions, they will be fastest to the scene. They coordinate with all other emergency services and will, if the situation demands, call in the specialised SAMU emergency medical service.
The national police force in France is divided between the Police Nationale and the Gendarmerie Nationale. Very broadly, the Police Nationale is responsible for urban areas while the gendarmerie covers the rural regions. The Police Nationale is authorised to conduct criminal enquiries, perform security operations like 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 wherever you call the emergency number for the police you will be directed to the appropriate service.
It is advisable to also note down the normal, eight-digit number for your local police or gendarmerie station. Larger towns have an additional secondary police force called la police municipale, which is managed by the local town hall and have limited powers within the district. The local municipal police handle general law enforcement, minor traffic and domestic offenses and lost property.
Due to recent terror-related attacks in France, the government has extended is national state of emergency until 26 January 2017. In response, it has also outlined a step-by-step guide on what to do in case a terrorist attack occurs.
The French government has recently launched a free smartphone app to alert users about possible security incidents, including all major natural, technological and terrorist-related risks. The app, called SAIP (Système d’alerte et d’information des populations), is available in both English and French and allows users to view alerts for up to eight geographical areas. SAIP can be downloaded in the Apple App store or Google Play.
There is also a volunteer-run SOS Helpline in English for residents living in France and beyond, providing support to expats on a range of issues, from how to understand a tax form to finding an English-speaking doctor, to dealing with loneliness and isolation, commonly felt by expats, or suicidal thoughts and breakdowns.
From 2017, a number will also be functional to find out-of-hours doctors: 116 117.
Do not be alarmed when you hear a siren every first Wednesday of the month at noon. France's sirens are tested nationwide with three consecutive blasts of almost two minutes, separated by five seconds of silence. In the event of an unplanned siren, you can find information on France Inter or France Info radion stations.
Emergency French phrases
All members of the family should practice how to give clear indications in French of your name, address and telephone number — you may come across an operator who speaks English but there is no guarantee of this. If you do not speak French, it is best to find a French-speaker whom you can trust.
- Police: La Police Nationale or gendarmerie
- Fire brigade: Les sapeurs pompiers
- Emergency services/ambulance: Service d'Aide Médicale d'Urgence or SAMU
- Poisoning emergency: Urgence d'empoisonnement
- Road emergency services: Services d'urgence routière
- Emergency numbers: Numéros d'urgence
- It's an emergency: C'est un cas d'urgence.
- My name is…: Je m'apelle…
- My telephone number is…: Mon numéro de téléphone est…
- I live at…: J'habite à…
- Help!: Au secours!
- Ambulance: une ambulance; J'ai besoin d'une ambulance. (I need an ambulance.)
- Heart attack: une crise cardiaque: Mon mari fait une crise cardiaque. (My husband had a heart attack.)
- Stroke: une attaque cérébrale; Je pense que ma femme a souffert une attaque cérébrale. (I think my wife suffered a stroke.)
- Choke: s'étouffer; Mon bébé s'étouffe. (My baby is choking.)
- Difficulty breathing/gasping: haleter or difficulté à respirer; J'ai difficulté à respirer. (I have difficulty breathing.)
- To bleed: saigner; Je saigne beaucoup. (I am bleeding a lot.)
- Hemorrhage: une hémorragie; Mon mari fait une hémorragie. (My husband had a hemorrhage.)
- Concussion: une commotion cérébrale; Mon enfant est tombé. A-t-il une commotion cérébrale? (My child fell. Does he have a concussion?)
- Diabetic: diabétique; Je suis diabétique. J'ai besoin d'insuline. (I need insulin).
- Labour: accouchement/accoucher; Ma femme accouche; la poche des eaux a percé. (My wife is giving birth. Her water has broken.)
- To be poisoned: s'empoisonner; Mon enfant s'est empoisonné. (My child has been poisoned.)
Other emergency helplines (All 08 numbers are toll-free)
Emergency and medical response numbers
- 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 | Red Cross website
- 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 | RésoGardes website – Not all pharmacies in France are covered by the service yet.
- Medical advice line (SOS Médecins): 08 20 33 24 24 | SOS Médecins website
Crime-related response numbers
- Terror/kidnapping hotline: 197
- Rape hotline: 08 00 05 95 95
- Racial discrimination helpline: 114
- Victims of violent crime hotline: 08 10 09 86 09
- Domestic violence helpline: 3919
- SOS child abuse: 119 | Service National d’Accueil Téléphonique de l’Enfance en Danger (SNATED) website
Non-medical response numbers
- Directory enquiries: 12
- Call collect: 3006
- Gas leak assistance: 01 40 33 80 60
- Emergency electrical services: 01 43 35 40 86
- SOS Help, an English-language helpline: 01 46 21 46 46 | SOS Help website – Available from 3 to 11pm daily all year long. This is not a 24/7 emergency services number.
- SOS emergency housing for the homeless: 115 | Samusocial website
- Public services hotline (toll number): 39 39
Lost or stolen credit cards
- American Express: 01 47 77 72 00
- Visa: 00 1-880-950-5114 or 08 92 70 57 05
- Mastercard: 0 800 901 387
- Citibank (collect): 001-605-335-2222
Utility service urgencies
There is no national number for any of the utility services, which have urgency hotlines according to the region where you live. Make a careful note of the number given to you for your area; you can find it marked on every gas/electricity/water services payment receipt.
Paris emergency numbers
- Emergency doctors (SOS Médicins): 01 43 37 77 77
- Dental emergencies: 01 43 37 51 00
- Out-of-hours chemists: 01 48 74 65 18 / 01 45 62 02 41
- Anti-poison centre: 01 40 05 48 48
- Spousal abuse hotline: 01 40 33 80 60
- Gas leaks: 01 43 35 40 87
- Electricity: 01 43 35 40 86
- Taxi Bleus: 01 49 36 10 10
- Angers: 02 41 48 21 21
- Bordeaux: 05 56 96 40 80
- Grenoble: 04 76 76 56 46
- Lille: 08 25 81 28 22
- Lyon: 04 72 11 69 11
- Marseille: 04 91 75 25 25
- Nancy: 03 83 32 36 36
- Reims: 03 26 06 07 08
- Rennes: 02 99 59 22 22
- Rouen: 02 35 88 44 00
- Strasbourg: 03 88 37 37 37
- Toulouse: 05 61 77 74 47
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