FAQ 112

What is 112?

"112" is the European emergency number people in distress can call 24h/24 and 7d/7 in all 28 member states of the European Union to get immediate assistance from the fire brigade, a medical team or the police. You can call the number 112 with a fixed or mobile phone. The European emergency number is free everywhere. 

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In which countries can I call 112 when I am in distress?

You can call for urgent assistance in the 27 member states of the European Union through the emergency number 112.

These member states are: Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Denmark, Germany, Estonia, Finland, France, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxemburg, Malta, the Netherlands, Austria, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovenia, Slovakia, Spain, the Czech Republic and Sweden.

112 is also used in some countries outside the EU - such as Switzerland and South Africa.

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Is 112 a free number?

Yes. 

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What language should I speak when I call 112?

You speak the language of the country in which you call. If you don't speak this language, you can provide the necessary information in English for instance. English is the most used language; in 21 member states you can get assistance in English. In some member states they can take your call to the emergency number in French, German or the language of the neighbouring country as well. 

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When can I call an emergency number?

You can call 112 or 101 when you urgently need a fire brigade, an ambulance or the police. If there is no urgency, you better call the local fire brigade, your general practitioner (outside opening hours you can call the after-hours primary care) or the local police.
There are also other emergency numbers for specific problems, such as the suicide line or the Treatment Centre for Poisoning Cases.

Some examples of situations when you MUST call an emergency number:

  • When a building, forest or car is on fire or when there is smoke coming out of a building.
  • People who are stuck or trapped and need to be evacuated from a run-down house or a car.
  • In case of a serious accident with wounded persons.
  • When someone tries to steal or damage a car.
  • When you are the victim or witness of an aggression or fight.
  • When you see someone break into a house or notice that someone is trying to break into your house.
  • When you witness a suicide attempt.
  • When you or someone in your surroundings is unconscious, doesn't stop bleeding or is suffocating.

Some examples when you CANNOT:

  • To see whether the 112 or 101 really works.
  • To make a joke when everything is fine.
  • When you need general information, such as someone's telephone number or address.
  • Because you are unable to get back inside your home.
  • To order a pizza or cab.

If you call the emergency services without a valid reason, the operators in the emergency centres cannot take the calls from people who are really in distress. All emergency numbers are, amongst other things because they are free, regularly the victim of "jokers". These persons expose themselves to legal action, which may lead to criminal prosecution.       

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How can you best ask for assistance during a heavy thunderstorm?

  • If the Royal Meteorological Institute of Belgium (RMI) announces a code orange or red because of a storm or flooding, call 1722 when you need assistance from the fire brigade and when nobody is (possibly) in peril of death.
  • Only call 112 when a rescue is necessary or when a life-threatening situation is involved.
  • When you call 112, patiently wait for an answer. Do not put the receiver down, because you will then find yourself again at the bottom of the waiting list.

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What does it mean when the message "network unavailable – emergency number only" appears on the screen of my mobile phone?

When this message appears, this means that there are interruptions on the mobile phone networks due to circumstances and that temporarily only emergency calls are possible. It certainly doesn't mean that you have to call the number 112 because your mobile phone doesn't work!

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Why has the emergency number 112 been introduced in the European Union?

The Council of the European Union took the decision to introduce the emergency number 112, so that people travelling in Europe don't need to know all local emergency numbers. The emergency number 112 is easy to remember and moreover it is the only emergency you need to remember in Europe. This is important because people confronted with an emergency can be stressed or even in panic.

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Can you call a foreign 112 centre from Belgium; and an emergency centre in Belgium from abroad?

At this moment it is not possible to directly contact foreign emergency centres from Belgium. Nor is it possible to call the emergency rooms of the Belgian emergency centres from abroad.

When you call an emergency number, you are redirected to the nearest emergency centre. When you call 112 in Europe, depending on where you are, you thus get an operator on the phone from the emergency centre in the region where you are at that moment.

When you do wish to contact an emergency centre in a region you are not yourself, you can try to do this best through a contact person (for instance a family member or acquaintance) who is in that region.

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Is my call to the emergency number 100/112 in Belgium recorded or saved?

When you call the emergency number 100/112, your call can be recorded or saved.
Emergency calls are recorded in order for the persons in charge of emergency stations to be able to listen to these calls again, and help people in need even better. For this reason, recorded phone calls can be saved for one year.

This is stipulated in article 125, § 1, 3° and article 128 of the law of June 13th, 2005 regarding electronic communication.

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How much does an intervention of an ambulance cost after a call to the number 112?

The transport costs for urgent medical assistance are at the expense of the person who is transported. The amount is fixed by Royal Decree at a flat rate of 60 euros. For more information, you can contact your health insurance fund or your mutual insurance company, or you can find more information on the website of the FPS Public Health, Food Chain Safety and Environment
 

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What can I do if I can't reach the 112 emergency number?

In principle, the 112 emergency number can always be reached. If you have to wait a while before having an operator online, please stay on the line and wait. Do not put the receiver down, to avoid being put back at the end of the queue. Operators handle most calls quickly, but you may have to wait a while if several people are calling at the same time.

However, it is never totally excluded that 112 may sometimes be unreachable and that you do not hear any ring tones or announcements. In this case, there are several options available to you.

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What can you do if you can't reach 112?

1.  Try to reach 112 with another device (fixed or mobile). It may be useful to use another telephone operator (Orange, Proximus, Telenet). If necessary, ask neighbours and bystanders to help you and call 112.

 
2.  You don't have any other device at hand and you call from your mobile? Try moving a few meters or turning around and try again.

 
3.  If you can still call, but the emergency number 112 is unreachable (for example, if you hear a busy tone or error message directly), try calling 101, the emergency number for police assistance.

 
4.  If you can still call but both the emergency numbers 112 and 101 are not available, contact a hospital, the fire brigade zone or the local police directly, depending on the type of incident.

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Can you call 112 when your car breaks down?

The 112 emergency number is only for emergencies. You cannot call 112 to ask for the assistance of a tow truck or to contact your insurance company.

In case of a serious road accident, you may dial 112 (ambulance/fire brigade) should there be casualties or if a vehicle is on fire. And you can call 101 (police) if the vehicle represents a threat or disturbs the peace.

Should your car break down without posing any danger, you have to contact yourself your roadside assistance company or your insurance. This kind of call will not be handled by the emergency centres and can considerably delay taking calls from people in need of immediate assistance.

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Can you call 112 if your phone is not (yet) unlocked?

If your phone has a SIM card, it is possible to call the emergency number 112, even if your phone has not yet been unlocked.

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