How to Call For Help Across the Globe: Emergency Numbers and Instructions for Travelers

By Paul Riegler on 30 January 2017
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Every time a traveler gets on a plane, flight attendants review the safety features of the aircraft in the pre-flight briefing, no matter how many times the passengers may have heard this before.

Ironically, few travelers know what to do and whom to call in an emergency when traveling, whether that emergency be an accident, a fire, a heart attack, or something else of similar nature or magnitude.

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


We last looked at this topic in 2012 and thought it important to update and revise this story for 2017.


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 United Kingdom. Later, in 1946, “116” was adopted as an emergency number in Los Angeles, California, while“911” was first used in the U.S. in 1968 and became ubiquitous in the 1980s. The European Union standard for emergency calls, established in 1991, was “112.”

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

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