UK emergency numbers

Seen a crime? Been mugged or had your home broken into? Do you call 999? We talk you through the UK emergency numbers so you know who to call and when.

A young person is standing outside wearing a black hooded coat thinking about which UK emergency numbers to call

When you think about emergency numbers in the UK, 999 is probably the first number that comes to mind. But with the emergency services busier than ever, it’s worth getting familiar with the other numbers you can call when something goes wrong so you know who to call and when. Let’s take a look at when to call 999 first of all.

When to call 999

999 is the UK emergency number we all know best, but what counts as an emergency? The police say you should call 999 if:

  • You’ve been mugged, badly hurt or attacked in any way.
  • If you see any serious crime taking place.
  • If there’s a chance the criminal is still nearby.

Your call should be answered within ten seconds.

Police, ambulance, or fire?

When your call is first answered you will be speaking to an operator who will ask you which service you require. The operator will connect you to the service you request. The operator stays on the line with the caller until they’re happy that communication has been established. Once you’re connected to the police there are two things they’ll want to know straight away:

  • The exact location the police are required.
  • Why do you want the police?

You will also be asked for your name and the telephone number that you’re calling from.

When to call NHS 111

Since 999 is for emergencies only, you can call 111 (or go to 111 online) if you have an ‘urgent medical problem and you’re not sure what to do.’ Here you’ll be able to get help from a fully trained adviser who can ask appropriate questions about your symptoms and give you the advice you need.

Obviously if you or someone else has sustained life threatening injuries you should call an ambulance or try to reach your nearest A&E, but it’s not always obvious which service you need. Examples of medical emergencies (for which you should call 999) include:

  • Cardiac arrest/collapse/unconsciousness
  • Chest pain/heart attack
  • Convulsions/fitting
  • Stroke symptoms
  • Traumatic/serious injury
  • Severe burns/scalds
  • Choking
  • Drowning
  • Severe allergic reactions

What’s the international emergency number?

Call 112 if you’re not in the United Kingdom and you’ll be put through to the appropriate emergency service in exactly the same way as if you had called 999. Available everywhere in the EU, as well as certain countries outside the EU, such as Switzerland and South Africa, 112 is a standardised number that’s worth remembering if you’re travelling abroad.

See the rest of our travel safety tips here if you’re heading abroad soon.

Calling emergency numbers from a mobile

Calls to 999 or 112 are free on all mobile phones. You can even call these numbers when you have no credit and can’t make any calls. Additionally, they’ll work across networks, so even if you don’t have a signal on your own network, if the phone can pick up another network it will use that (but obviously if it can’t get any signal at all then it won’t work).

Hoax calls to emergency numbers

It’s really not a good idea to make hoax 999 calls. Not only are you endangering the lives of others, you could face prosecution. Think before you make that ‘there’s a bomb in my school’ (I want to bunk off classes) call.

Non-emergency number UK — call 101

If you want to report a crime to the police but it’s not an emergency, the number to call is 101. You can call the non-emergency number for:

  • Vandalism, graffiti and other deliberate damage to property
  • Noisy neighbours
  • Threatening and abusive behaviour
  • Abandoned vehicles
  • Rubbish and litter, including fly tipping
  • Drunk or rowdy behaviour in public places
  • Drug-related anti-social behaviour
  • Problems with street lighting

Check out the rest of our articles on personal safety here.

Next Steps



By The Mix Staff

Updated on 16-Dec-2022