Who Should I Call If I Have An Emergency In Russia?

If you are currently in an emergency situation in Russia, and have googled “Who Should I Call If I Have An Emergency In Russia?”, and have ended up on this blog, I would like to extend my sincere apologies.  The answer is not always simple for this question.  But since you are currently in an emergency situation in Russia, I would not want to require you to read to the end of this informational blog post, but rather would let you know that the answer is probablyDial 112“.  I hope that works for you.  Once your current emergency is over, please visit my little blog again and comment on whether that was helpful information, or not.  All the best.

For those of you who are not in an emergency situation or not in Russia, please feel free to pop some popcorn and read the rest of the explanation of emergency phone numbers in Russia.

I have lived in Russia for 17 years, and happily have only needed to call an emergency number a few times over those years.  Sometimes I was successful in receiving the necessary assistance.

But you would think that I, an expert on EVERYTHING in Russia, would know what phone number to call in an emergency situation.  Even I thought that.  Until yesterday when I was riding the modern Aeroexpress train from Moscow’s award-winning Sheremyetovo Airport to downtown Moscow.

Usually riding the Aeroexpress train is a mundane, but money  and time-saving experience, as you avoid cab fare and traffic.  And although the Aeroexpress train is usually full of travelers, it is usually quiet, as everyone is a bit jet-lagged and bleary-eyed, just like I was yesterday, after arriving in Moscow from Vladivostok.  But of course, there are no guarantees that a train ride will be uneventful, as this video amply illustrates:

But what number should you call in Russia if you are having an emergency, but neither Agent 007 nor you have any heavy industrial equipment at your disposal?  That’s a great question, and one that many Aeroexpress passengers probably ask themselves when they arrive in the Motherland.

Fortunately, the Aeroexpress train provides this information in both Russian and English.  If you are having an emergency, be sure to listen carefully:

In case you weren’t diligent enough to be taking notes, the announcement states:

“In Case of Emergency, please Dial 01, or 101, or 02, or 102, the Universal Emergency Number is Double-1,2.”

So, I hope that clears things up, if you’ve just arrived in Russia and have an emergency.

But it’s not quite that simple.  In fact, I am not alone in not really knowing who to call in case of an emergency.  Most of my Russian friends are unable to answer that question.  I hope that my dear mother-in-law, whom I will call Linda, is not reading this blog.  As this particular gem might concern her.  Not so much for me, but for the children, you see.

Historically, if you were having an emergency in Russia you could call:

-01 For Fire

-02 For Police

-03 For Ambulance.

-04 Gas Line Emergency

Before we continue, I must state that calling the ambulance in Russia is, generally speaking, very different than calling the ambulance in America.  In America, you only call the ambulance if you are having a real emergency.  For example, when I was five years old, I split my face wide open in a sledding mishap, including a fractured skull, but this was not deemed by my parents to be a situation worthy of disturbing the paramedics over.  Instead, in what is a vivid memory for me to this day, I remember being driven to the hospital in our blue station wagon, obeying all posted speed limits, and making a complete and full stop at all stop signs.  We were saving a call to the ambulance for a “real emergency”.

In Russia, on the other hand, calling the ambulance is something you do if you are feeling unwell and are unsure what to do.  A doctor will show up at your home after some time, and check things out, maybe give you a pill or a shot, and then either be on his way, or decide that this is serious enough to take you to the hospital.  For example, if you have a fever.

This is not to say that a Russian ambulance can not react quickly in an emergency, but you will need to make it very clear what the situation is when you call.

Oh yeah, I almost forgot!  Those numbers above… they don’t work if you are calling from your cell phone.  So, if you’re having an emergency and want to use those numbers, you will either need to find a land line phone, or find out what the correct phone number would be for your particular cell phone service.

For example, if you want to call the ambulance from your cell phone, you should call:

-030 if your cell phone carrier is Megafon, MTS, or Tele2

-003 if your cell phone carrier is Beeline

One time I was just outside of Moscow, and happened upon a situation where a man was dying on the side of the road.  His “friends” were afraid to call the ambulance, perhaps because they had all been partaking of controlled and unlawful substances together, and this was now perhaps why this man was lying there dying.  I told them in no uncertain terms that I didn’t give a fiddler’s fart about the police, I was going to call the ambulance.  They immediately scattered and I dialed 003, since my cell phone carrier is Beeline, and explained the situation and my location.

The kind ambulance dispatcher on the other end kindly explained to me that they don’t deliver pizza to this particular neighborhood  they were unable to provide ambulance service to this particular location, as it was outside of Moscow, and I was calling the Moscow dispatcher.  I politely explained that I was less than a kilometer from the Moscow city limits, and although I would hate to color outside the lines in this particular situation, and happily the man had still a bit of a pulse and was breathing, he was turning a bluish gray, so perhaps she could call somebody and work things out.  She, in turn, explained to me in a friendly yet firm manner, that this request was impossible.  Instead, she recited a ten digit phone number I would need to call in order to procure the necessary assistance.  I, in turn, provided more information on my personal situation; specifically that, in a moment of acute carelessness, I had not brought a notebook and pencil along for this afternoon stroll.  She patiently replied that this was the only way, and again recited the ten digit phone number, as I worked to control my breathing and apply memory recall techniques while standing next to a dying man.  I was also simultaneously trying to not think about this little tidbit from the hit TV show “The IT Crowd”.

It was sort of miraculous that I remembered the phone number, and what felt like an eternity, but was actually only several minutes later, an ambulance arrived and the kind professional paramedics saved that man’s life.

So, I tell that story to say that knowing the right phone number hasn’t seemed to work in all situations, even if I knew my carrier’s phone number.

I reckon it is because of these situations that the government made the very smart decision to make the universal 112 number.  According to the Russian 112 number Wikipedia page, the 112 number is actually incredibly universal.  Not only does it include the obvious emergency services as expected, such as gas line leaks and ambulances, but also psychological help, and also can provide services in 5 foreign languages:  English, French, German, Spanish, and Chinese.

It’s all quite impressive, and I hope I never have to find out how it really works.  At the same time, my simple advice is this:  If you are in Russia, remember the number 112, but also save the emergency phone numbers for your specific cell phone carrier, in your particular location.  Also, find out what your local police station and ambulance dispatcher phone numbers are.  My experience has shown on more than one occasion that those local “long” phone numbers sometimes are more helpful than the more centralized short numbers.  Saving those numbers into your phone might take you 5 or 10 minutes and you might need to enlist the help of a Russian friend, but if you are in an emergency situation, you will be thankful that you won’t be required to remember something like 0118 999 881 999 119 725…3.

One thought on “Who Should I Call If I Have An Emergency In Russia?

  1. I am not worried. After Rachel reads this blog she will put the correct numbers into her phone. Your mother-in-law. Oh, to be on the safe side will will make sure she reads it.

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