If you can’t use 999 on holiday, what’s the mobile number to call if you get in trouble in Europe?
With temperatures plummeting, grey skies overhead and the sun just a distant memory, it’s understandable that thoughts may stray to a winter break.
Last year more Brits travelled overseas than ever before, with the National Statistics Office (NSO) estimating there were more than 70 million visits abroad by UK residents in 2016.
And while we dream of that golden beach, we rarely think of what might go wrong or who we could turn to in the event of an emergency.
And yet, according to the NSO, on average 10 British holidaymakers visit a hospital every day following an accident abroad.
But there is a service you can call. It’s free of charge and covers all EU countries and some outside of the EU such as Switzerland, South Africa and India. It also operates alongside 999 services in the UK.
We were quite stunned to find that only 14% of people knew that dialling 112 will reach the emergency services and only 3% recognised it was the EU emergency number.
112 works right across the EU and in a few other countries too. In a lot of countries, you can even use English, because it will take you through to a particular call centre where there will be English-language operators.- Lynda St Cooke: Campaign Manager, Foreign & Commonwealth Office
The 112 number has been around as an emergency service since 1991 and functions alongside existing national emergency numbers.
In some European countries such as Denmark, Estonia, Finland, the Netherlands, Portugal, Romania and Sweden the 112 number functions as their national emergency number.
It can be dialled from most mobiles or landlines and covers all emergency services such as ambulance, the fire brigade or the police.
Specially trained operators will answer any calls and either deal with the request directly or transfer the call to the most appropriate emergency service.
In 2012 with the build-up to the European football championship in the Ukraine, the Foreign Office, under its ‘Know Before You Go’ campaign decided to conduct a survey of people’s awareness of the 112 number.
To their astonishment they found only 14% were aware the number could be used to reach emergency services. Some of those surveyed thought it was directory enquiries while others believed it was a brand of perfume, some the number of a bus service.
To find out more about the service visit the European Emergency number website.