American residents know that in the event of an emergency, you can dial 9-1-1 for help. This number is not the same in every country; however, other countries have similar systems that will allow you to get help quickly in case of an emergency.
Most public switched telephone networks have a single emergency telephone number that allows callers to contact local emergency services for assistance in emergencies. Emergency calls are answered by either a telephone operator or an emergency service dispatcher, then the nature of the emergency is determined by the operator or dispatcher. Dispatchers are trained to give urgent advice in life-threatening situations to help the caller while emergency personnel is on the way.
The first emergency number system to be deployed anywhere in the world was in London on July 1, 1937. The number was 999. In the United States, the first emergency number appeared in 1946. The number was 116, which was an emergency line for Los Angeles, California. The first 911 emergency phone service first went into use in Alabama in 1968 and 911 systems became widespread during the 1980s.
It’s important to save the emergency numbers in your phone when traveling to a new destination. Some countries have separate numbers for police, fire, and medical emergencies. Most countries have three digits numbers for emergencies like the United States does, but few countries have extended numbers. Chad (and Comoros both have longer numbers for an ambulance/medical emergencies (2251-4242 and 772-03-73 respectively) and Guinea has a six-digit emergency number for fire (442-020).
Some countries use also 911 as their emergency phone number. These countries are:
- American Samoa
- Antigua and Barbados (or 999)
- Cayman Islands
- Costa Rica
- Dominican Republic
- El Salvador (police only)
- Honduras (police only)
- Marshall Islands
- Montserrat (or 999 for police; or 919 for medical and fire)
- Puerto Rico
- Saint Kitts and Nevis
- Saint Lucia (or 999 for police; or 919 for medical and fire)
- Saint Vincent and the Grenadines (or 999 for police; or 919 for medical and fire)
- Saudi Arabia
- Solomon Islands (or 999)
- United States Virgin Islands
- Vanuatu (medical and fire)
- Venezuela (or 171)