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Emergency numbers in Germany

You’ve settled into your new life here in Germany. Everything is Bier and Bratwurst, and negative thoughts are the furthest thing from your mind. But… what would happen if there was an emergency? Who would you call? How would it work? In this article, we answer the questions we hope you’ll never have to ask.

Oh no! A burglar broke in and you hit him over the head with your updated version of the Duden. As it’s a hardback with 1,152 pages, he went down. Unfortunately, he knocked over a candle on his way, which rolled over to your net curtains which went up with a whoosh. Your pet cat wanders in to see what all the commotion is about, sniffs disparagingly and walks back out, singed tail raised high in disapproval. So, now you need the police, an ambulance, the fire brigade and a vet. ARGH!

In case you haven’t figured it out yet, this is a hypothetical situation. The odds of all these things happening at the same time are, erm, well maths never was my strong point, but the odds are probably pretty low. However, there may come a time when you need to call an emergency number in Germany so let’s break them all down here.

What counts as an emergency?

Basically, there are two types of emergency – criminal and medical. If you’ve been murdered or have died, don’t worry, you don’t need to lift a finger. In all other cases, there are two main numbers you can call. (Sadly, Ghostbusters don’t operate in Germany.)

112 and 110 are the main emergency numbers in Germany

  1. Call 112 if there’s a fire or you need medical assistance.
  2. Call 110 if there’s an emergency requiring the police.

Both are free of charge so if you haven’t bought a credit top-up or your phone is locked and you’re in too much of a panic to remember your password or finger pattern, you can still call. If all of your fingers have been broken, use a toe or your nose. Operators allegedly speak English as well as German but take that with a big old grain of salt. If there’s been a theft or burglary, make sure to file a police report as you’ll need it for your insurance company.

An emergency responder picked up. What now?

As with any phone call, wait to be connected to an operator (duh). Calls are usually answered after around nine seconds in this land of shiny efficiency. Once you’re connected, clearly state what happened, where you are and how to reach you. Answer any questions, follow any advice you’re given and don’t hang up until you are told to do so. Probably a bit like a phone call with your mother. After you’ve hung up, don’t immediately start calling your mother, fifteen best friends and the guy in your local Späti to tell them what’s happened as there’s a chance the emergency service may need to call you back.

I’m ill but it’s not life-threatening

Call 112 immediately if you’re having:

  1. a heart attack,
  2. stroke,
  3. severe shortness of breath,
  4. significant blood loss, or someone has poisoned you.

It’s hard to quantify what significant blood loss is but a paper cut probably doesn’t qualify, you big baby. In that case, please do call your mother.

If you’re ill at night, at the weekend or on a public holiday and feel like you can’t wait until the next day to get treatment, the number to dial for the on-call service is 116 117. And whoop-de-doo, that’s also free.

Examples where it might be necessary to call 116 117 include:

  1. a high fever,
  2. abdominal pain,
  3. vomiting or diarrhoea.

The service will then refer you to an on-call practice that you can visit. If you’re too ill to move, someone will come to your home. It doesn’t matter if you have private or public health insurance, you’re covered (depending on your contract and deductible because, after all, this is still Germany).

I’ve got an Autobahn emergency. What now?

Being stuck in a Stau for two hours does not constitute an emergency. It’s ganz normal. However, if you’ve been in a car crash or your car has broken down, call the police if you’re still in the main lane (or your car insurance company or ADAC if you’re a member), turn on your emergency lights and place the warning triangle 200 metres behind your vehicle so other cars don’t crash into you and make an already bad situation worse. Do not stop on the Autobahn unless there is an actual emergency – this is against the law, and for good reason since cars are probably whizzing by you at over 200 km/hour. (Seriously, how cool is the German Autobahn??)

I need to go to a hospital. How does it work?

Well, first of all, you go to the hospital. Use your googling skills for something useful for a change to find one. Found one? Great. Go there. There? Excellent. Walk in. There’s usually a main reception so present your Gesundheitskarte (health insurance card) there to register. Then wait. In an emergency, go to the A&E department. Do the same. Your health insurance provider will cover the cost of your hospital stay.

Other emergencies

How do I find a late-night pharmacy?

Search for Notfallapotheke on Google Maps or enter your postal code here.

Lost credit card?

If you’ve lost your credit card, call your provider and block it immediately. Here are the contact details for the main providers:

  • American Express (069) 97 97 10 00
  • Diner’s Club (05921) 86 12 34
  • EC and Bank Cards (069) 74 09 87
  • Euro-MasterCard (069) 79 33 19 10
  • VISA (0800) 81 49 100

Lost passport?

If you’ve lost your passport, you may need to make a report to the police and call your embassy.

Locked yourself out of your apartment?

In case you lost your keys or locked yourself out of your apartment, take a breath and read our key loss guide before you call the first locksmith you found on Google.

Other emergency hotlines

Other important numbers include the nursing advice line: 00800 4759 2330, lost property (Fundbüro): 69 95, lost property (railways): (01805) 99 05 99, air rescue (if you live a super exciting life): (0711) 70 10 70, and the toxic substance emergency hotline (Federal Institute of Risk Assessment): 192 40.

Obviously, we hope that you live a long, happy, healthy life here in Germany but frankly, you never know when someone might want to rob you, stab you, poison you or turn you into a human torch. Better safe than sorry, right?

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