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.
A BRIEF HISTORY OF EMERGENCY NUMBERS
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.
EUROPE AND AFRICA
In Europe, 112 is used throughout 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 may be used on mobile phones, however.
In Asia, a number of countries use 999 including Bangladesh, Hong Kong, Malaysia, and Singapore, and 112 is in use in several countries including Kazakhstan, South Korea, and Turkey. The Philippines uses 117 although 112 and 911 will work as well, and Pakistan uses 15 for police, 115/1122 for medical, and 16 for fire.
China uses 120 for medical, 119 for fire, and 122 for reporting traffic accidents. India uses 2611 (one of the few four-digit emergency numbers), and Japan uses 110 for police and 119 for medical and fire.
You’ll encounter a variety of numbers in other parts of the world, including 000 in Australia, 911 in Fiji, and 111 in New Zealand.
In Central America and the Caribbean, many countries including Costa Rica, Panama, and the Dominican Republic support both 911 and 112, but it’s 118 in Nicaragua and 199 in Honduras.
In South America, French Guyana has two-digit numbers, 17 for police, 15 for medical, 18 for fire, while Argentina uses 101, 107, 100 respectively. Brazil uses 190 for police, 192 for medical, and 193 for fire, while Colombia uses 156, 132, and 119. Uruguay incidentally, uses 911.
North America, thanks to the consistency of the North American Numbering Plan, is easy. All of Canada and the United States use 911 for all emergencies. Mexico uses 066 for police, 065 for medical, and 068 for fire. In some regions of the country, 911 will work, in particular in more densely-populated areas.
HOW TO SAY “HELP!” IN 10 LANGUAGES
Most mobile phones are capable of dialing emergency numbers such as 112 and 911 even when the keypad is locked or without the presence of a SIM card. In many cases, a traveler can dial one of the standard emergency numbers and the call will be made regardless of the country’s local emergency number because the mobile phone doesn’t actually transmit the number dialed, but rather initiates an emergency-call protocol.
Nonetheless, it’s always a good idea to know which number(s) to call in an emergency. Operators and dispatchers have been trained to not only dispatch police, fire, and emergency personnel but also to help callers deal with life-threatening situations and instruct callers, over the phone, how to perform first aid or CPR.