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When to call 112 or 999

Call 112 or 999 in a medical emergency when someone is:

  • seriously ill
  • injured
  • at risk of dying

When to call 112 or 999 for your child

Call 112 or 999 and ask for an ambulance if your child:

  • is unconscious, especially if they had a recent fall or a head injury
  • is not breathing or turning blue around the lips or face
  • is choking - first aid steps for choking while waiting for the ambulance to arrive
  • has taken medication, poison or a chemical substance and is now difficult to wake up
  • is having a severe allergic reaction. This could include noisy breathing or difficulty breathing
  • has a large cut and you are unable to stop the bleeding
  • has a seizure for the first time
  • has been diagnosed with a seizure disorder and has a seizure lasting more than 5 minutes or has one seizure after another

Always call 112 or 999 if your child is seriously ill or injured, and their life is at risk.

If your child has a seizure disorder

If your child has a seizure disorder, such as epilepsy, you may have got instructions on what to do if they have a seizure. Follow those instructions.

Keep any written instructions where you can easily find them. Make sure that everyone who cares for your child knows where these instructions are.

How to call 112 or 999

There are two emergency numbers in Ireland — 112 and 999. Both are free of charge to call.

Call the emergency services by dialling 112 or 999 from a mobile or fixed phone line.

112 also works in any EU country and from any phone, free of charge.

Watch a video about how to make an emergency call

Speech or hearing impairment

If you're deaf, have a hearing impairment or speech disorder, you can register for a service that will allow you to text 112 in an emergency.

You should register your phone for the 112 SMS service in advance so that it will be ready to go in case of an emergency.

What happens when you call 112 or 999

Once you're connected to an emergency service operator, they will direct the call to the appropriate emergency service.

This could be:

  • ambulance
  • Gardaí
  • fire brigade
  • coast guard

Calling an ambulance

The information you need

Once connected to the National Ambulance Service, you will need to know:

  • the phone number you are calling from (so that if you get disconnected, they can call you back)
  • the address or the location of where you are
  • your Eircode, if possible
  • what has happened

Stay on the phone

Once the ambulance service has your location, they will send an ambulance immediately. The emergency call taker will continue to ask you questions. This does not delay the ambulance getting to you.

The emergency call taker will ask you more questions about the patient and their condition. You need to stay on the phone so they can give you advice on what to do next while waiting for the ambulance to arrive.

They may give you instructions over the phone to help the patient. Please listen carefully to their instructions.

Tell them if the patient's condition changes in any way. The emergency call taker will stay on the line as long as possible.

How you can help the ambulance crew

There are a few things you can do to help the ambulance service.

For example, stay calm and:

  • if you're in the street, stay with the patient until help arrives
  • call the ambulance service back if the patient's condition changes
  • call the ambulance service back if your location changes
  • if you're calling from home or work, ask someone to open the door and direct the paramedics to where they're needed
  • lock away family pets
  • if you can, write down the patient's GP details and collect any medication they're taking
  • if you can, tell the paramedics about any allergies the patient has

Non-life-threatening emergencies

If it's not a life-threatening emergency and urgent medical attention isn't needed, consider other options before calling 112 or 999.

For example, consider:

  • visiting or calling your GP
  • going to your local injury unit
  • making your own way to your local ED - arriving in an ambulance doesn't mean you'll be seen any quicker
  • self-care at home
  • talking to a pharmacist

Choosing the best service for your needs will ensure the ambulance service can respond to people who need help the most.

Page last reviewed: 30/10/2018
Next review due: 30/10/2021