What is the difference between 999 and 112?

Since first writing this blog the information on emergency numbers has been clarified and I have updated the information accordingly.

In the UK 112 works the same as 999 and there is no difference in the locator system or the searching of networks.  An important thing to note is that if you have no network coverage and your phone has accessed another network the emergency services will not be able to ring you back.  Therefore if you have rung Mountain Rescue ring 999 or 112 again a few minutes later in case they needed to contact you.  You might also like to read the information posted here http://www.mountainsafety.co.uk/EP-999-or-112-Which-is-Best-aspx

What happens when you call 999?

You might like to read this blog as it details what happens when you call the emergency services

Being ready for your ambulance

An important thing to be aware of too is how to be ready for your help to arrive which is detailed in this blog.

Getting help

I always include in my teaching a discussion on how to access emergency services. A simple question you might think ~ well I have noticed in recent months that there is more and more confusion.  There is now an array of numbers for emergency and non-emergency help in the UK.  My aim is to clarify some of the issues*.

In the UK we are familiar with 999 as our emergency phone number to access all the emergency services.  In 2003 legislation was put in place across Europe for a single European emergency number.  This number works alongside individual country’s numbers.

What happens when you call 112?

When you call 112 you access the emergency services in the same way as 999.

112 will work across Europe but not in every country world-wide so do always check when travelling how to access the emergency services*.

What happens when you call 111?

You can call 111 when you need medical help fast but it’s not a 999 emergency.  When you phone 111 your call is handled by a health adviser who can advise on what treatment you need and how to access it.  They are able to advise on the local service that would best meet your needs.  If the advisers think you need an ambulance they can arrange one for you.  111 is a 24/7 service but is not yet UK wide so please check on http://www.nhs.uk/NHSEngland/AboutNHSservices/Emergencyandurgentcareservices/Pages/NHS-111.aspx to check availability in your area. Calls to this number are free**.


What happens when you call 101?

101 is for non-emergency calls to your local police force.  You can use this number to report incidents to your local police force that don’t require an emergency response.  Please see http://www.police.uk/101 for more detail. Please note there is a 15p charge for these calls**.


Contacting the Fire Service

The Fire Service do not have a non-emergency number.  They no longer deal with cats in trees (you need the RSPCA for that one, or a tin of tuna at the bottom of the tree!) so the view of my local fire service was that “if you need us you need 999!”.


I hope you have found this information useful and that it clarifies what each number is for.  Please comment if you have experience of using 112 I’d be pleased to hear from you.


*Please note this information relates to the UK. If you live, or are travelling, outside of the UK please ensure you know how to access emergency assistance.

**Correct at time of publication (March 2013).

You may also like:-

How to be ready for your ambulance

How to do CPR

What happens when you ring 999

What happens when you call 999