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Who to call in an emergency abroad?

The European emergency phone number, is available everywhere in the EU, free of charge. In an emergency anywhere in the EU you can dial 112.

With one call you get all the help you need: ambulance, fire brigade and/or police. The number is available 24/7, so you can call the emergency centre at all times for urgent assistance.

Where does my call go?

When you call an emergency number, you are redirected to the nearest emergency centre. By calling 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 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.

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 ringtones or announcements. In this case, there are several options available to you.

  1. Try to reach 112 with another device (fixed or mobile). It may be useful to use another telephone operator. 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.

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 when you CAN:

  • 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 locked yourself out and can't enter your house anymore.
  • 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.       

How much does an intervention of an ambulance or fire department cost after a call to the number 112/100?

  • The emergency numbers are free and available 24h/24.
  • The transport costs for urgent medical assistance are at the expense of the person who is transported. The amount is determined by a royal decree and is indexed every year. The National Institute for Health and Disability Insurance (RIZIV) can reimburse part of the costs through your health insurance or national health insurance organization. For further information you can contact your health insurance company or your national health insurance organization. 
  • The costs for urgent assistance from the fire department are mostly free of charge, yet your municipality can ask for a reimbursement for interventions that are not urgent when these are mentioned in the rules regarding charges. For further information, contact your municipality.

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