What is 112?

112 is the European emergency number in all 28 EU member states, as well as other countries in Europe and elsewhere. People in distress can call 112 24/7 to reach the fire brigade, medical assistance and the police. The European emergency number is free and can be reached by landline phones as well as mobiles.

The increased levels of Europeans travelling from one country to another led to the Council of the European Union introducing a common emergency number in all states in order to avoid the need of remembering different national emergency numbers depending on one's location. 112 constitutes an easy number to remember and, to add to this, the only number one needs to know when travelling in the EU, a highly valuable element when considering the state of distress people are in when in need of the emergency services.

Why is 112 important?

Having a common European emergency number has a variety of advantages for European citizens.

More and more Europeans travel within the EU, with levels reaching unprecedented numbers. According to Flash Eurobarometer 368 (2013), 16% of the survey's respondents had made a journey in another European country during the previous 12 months, 16% visited another European country between 2-5 times, and 4% did so more than 5 times. The same report notes that 65% of the respondents were not aware of which number they could call in case of an emergency throughout the EU, while 8% indicated a number other than 112. Moreover, there are significant gaps between states regarding knowledge of 112.

Receiving information related to the tools citizens have at their disposal when in distress, tools like the European emergency number, constitutes their right since proper information can be life-saving in many cases of emergency.

What to do when dialling 112?

Please note that the points below are not exhaustive but merely indicate an example of useful tips that are thought to benefit people in distress when dialling the emergency number.

Stay calm
When calling 112 it is important to stay calm. You need to provide the emergency service with relevant information.

If possible, make the call yourself
If you can, make the call yourself. No one can explain the situation better than you.

Wait until the operator answers your call
It may take a little time, but every repeated call is considered a new one and is put at the end of the queue, therefore the time of getting through might be prolonged.

State your name, what happened, who is involved and indicate your location
When the operator answers your call, say your name, try to explain what happened and who is involved. Also, try to indicate your location the best way possible. It makes it easier for the emergency services to reach you.

Follow the operator’s advice
Answer the questions and follow the operator’s advice. Do not hang up until the operator says so. Moreover, try to keep your phone line free until the emergency services reach you. The dispatcher may need to contact you for further information.

If something changes, inform 112 again
If the situation changes, for better or for worse, call 112 again and report it.

Please, keep in mind that sometimes several people call 112 reporting the same emergency situation. In those cases, do not be surprised if the operator only asks you for additional information and ends the call. This is normal procedure to avoid repeated information, to free the phone line faster and to ensure a prompt answer to the next emergency call.

It is important to know when to dial the emergency number. False calls, whether knowingly or not, divert emergency services from people who are in need of urgent help.

Some examples of false calls are:

  • Inappropriate judgement
  • Misdials
  • "How to" Information request
  • Hoax call
  • Child playing
  • Due to mental disability
  • Abusive calls
  • Immediate hang up

Source: European Emergency Number Association