How to Call For Help Around the World: Emergency Numbers and Instructions for Travelers

By Paul Riegler on 7 August 2012
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Relatively few travelers take basic precautions when checking into a hotel, such as identifying the nearest emergency exit and looking at the emergency floor plan.

What is equally important is knowing what to do in an emergency, how to (literally) call for help and what number to dial on the phone in the event of an emergency, be it an accident, a fire, a heart attack, or something else of similar nature or magnitude.

A follow-up article will include a list of useful emergency phrases in 10 languages plus telephone numbers for emergencies.

Emergency telephone numbers are typically three-digit numbers that can be easily memorized. The problem is that there is no universal standard for them, so they typically vary from country to country, although the European Union has standardized on one.

The first emergency telephone number deployed anywhere in the world was “999” in London on July 1, 1937.  It soon spread throughout the rest of the country.  “116” was adopted as an emergency number in Los Angeles, California in 1946.  “911” was first used in the U.S. in 1968 and became a standard in the 1980s. “112” became a European Union standard for emergency calls in 1991.

As a result, the three most widely recognized emergency numbers are 112, 911, and 999.


In Europe, 112 is the standard across the EU.  Armenia and Belarus use 102 for police, 103 for medical, and 101 for fire.  Turkey uses 155 for police, 112 for medical, and 110 for fire, while Vatican City uses 113 for police, 118 for medical, and 115 for fire although dialing 112 on a mobile phone will be forwarded to 113.

In the Middle East, Israel uses 100 for police, 101 for medical, and 102 for fire and dialing 112 from a mobile phone works for all emergencies.  999 is quite common and used by Bahrain, Lebanon (which also uses 112), Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the U.A.E., while 112 is used by several countries including Jordan (which also uses 911) and Syria.

In Africa, many countries use two-digit emergency numbers including 17 in Algeria, Chad, and Mali, while South Africa uses a five-digit number, with 10111 for fire, and 10177 for medical.  112 does work from mobile phones, however.

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