Emergencies in France

French Emergency Services

Who to contact in an emergency

When calling the emergency services you must tell the operator

  1. the location where help is needed
  2. your name
  3. your telephone number
  4. what the emergency is
  5. how many people need help
  6. are weapons involved

Explain the situation slowly and clearly, the call will be routed to the best service(s) to provide a response.

Don't worry about language, in France the calls can be answered in 40 languages with the help of interpreters.

Emergency Numbers

Telephone numbers to contact in an emergency. Details on individual services below.

Emergencies (European SOS number) - Free112
Emergencies for Hearing Impaired144

The free 112 number is used to contact emergency services (police, fire, medical) anywhere in Europe from any telephone - landline, pay phone or mobile (cell phone). Please note you will need a SIM card in the phone to call from a mobile.

112 is for emergencies only -

  • Serious medical issues where the person is very ill or life threatening condition
  • Life-threatening situations
  • Fire - Any type of fire

Individual Services

Dedicated numbers for individual services, if unsure call 112

Medical Emergencies SAMU/SMUR/H-MICU15
Police (Police & Gendarmerie)17
Fire & Accident (Sapeurs Pompiers)18
Social Emergency115
Missing Children116000
Children in Danger of Abuse119
Emergencies At Sea1616 or VHF Ch. 16

The numbers above can be used to contact the services but are only for emergencies. Please refer to the local phone directory to contact the individual services for other mattters.

The French Emergency Services

Police

Police Nationale Badge

The police in France are split into three distinct organisations, and depending on the emergency, will depend on who you will deal with.

Police Municipale

Local Police - responsible for law enforcement in small towns and villages. They deal with local matters - minor offences, domestic situations, traffic offences and general law enforcement in these areas.

Police Nationale

National Police - the main civil law enforcement agency in France and cover cities and large towns. They conduct criminal enquiries, monitor identity checks and organise traffic control and general security. The Police Nationale are governed by the Ministère de l'Intérieur (Ministry of the Interior).

Gendarmerie Nationale

National Gendarmerie - are a military police force responsible national security and policing the areas (countryside, rivers & coast) not covered by the Local and National forces. The Gendarmerie is authorised to conduct criminal investigations, security activities at airports and military locations, maintain crowd control and provide security for ceremonial and state occasions. As a military police force they controlled by the Ministère de la Défense (Ministry of Defence for France).

Medical Emergency Services - SAMU (Service d'Aide Médicale d'Urgence)

Calling SAMU will put you through to an operator who, with the help of a qualified doctor there, will determine the best course of action for your situation.

This maybe just to give the caller advice or send the appropriate medical response units depending on the severity of the condition. The three levels of assistance are

  • Ambulance - these are used for home emergencies or street accident. They may arrange a private ambulance if the situation is not severe.
  • SMUR (Service Mobile d'Urgence et de Réanimation) - these units come with at least one qualified doctor (or anaesthetist), a nurse and a paramedic.
  • H-MICU (UMH-Unité Mobile Hospitalière) - this a Mobile Intensive Care Unit sent to serious accidents or a severe illness. The H-MICU can be a vehicle or helicopter equipped to provide full hospital-standard life support services.

The French find that recovery rates are much higher when a person is treated as soon as possible, so treatment for emergencies is often carried out on-site with trained medical personnel and suitably equipped vehicles.

Pharmacy (Chemist)

Pharmacie in France

For ailments that can be treated yourself look for the nearest pharmacy. If you are out and about, they usually have a green + sign outside somewhere to highlight their location.

Most pharmacies open from 08:30 to 19:30 (8:30am to 7:30pm) Monday to Saturday. In larger towns and busy places like shopping centres the pharmacy will stay open all day, but in smaller towns they close for lunch sometime between 12:00 and 14:00 (Midday to 2pm).

A pharmacie de garde (duty pharmacy) will be open on Sundays. Which pharmacy and when it is open can be found in pharmacy windows, local newspapers, calling 3237 or by using the website www.3237.fr.

The website is in french, so look for the box on the right titled Recherche en Ligne (online search) , enter the local town in Votre Ville, enter the 4 digit code and click on Recherche (search). Then select the time you would like to visit and voila, the local duty pharmacy.

Fire & Rescue (Sapeurs-pompiers)

The Sapeurs-pompiers respond to fires, traffic accidents and emergency medical situations with fire fighters not only trained to extinguish fires, but also to provide rescue and ambulance services.

Remember

112 covered all emergency services, the operator will then decide on the best help for you / your situation.

Speak slowly and clearly, gving as much information as possible.

If you are travelling with a known medical condition, check in advance of travel how this may affect you and where you can get help if required.

Take out travel insurance to cover for possible expenses. See more on travel insurance.

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