I read about How to make an international emergency call? but not sure if I will be able to call the local emergency number (USA - 911) using a foreign (India) mobile number when I am in USA.

Though I have mentioned USA, I would also like to understand how it works in other countries as well.

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    One important caveat: The cell phone has to support the frequency bands used in the country you are in. If you have cell phone reception you can make an emergency call.
    – Michael
    Commented Oct 31, 2019 at 10:03
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    @Michael indeed. This used to be a critical consideration. In recent years phones have been increasingly able to connect in foreign countries, but the issue hasn't gone away completely.
    – phoog
    Commented Oct 31, 2019 at 13:13

6 Answers 6


For all countries, you can just dial 112. Dialling 112 will direct you to the same emergency call centre as phoning the country's emergency number would. In the EU, emergency call centres must provide a translations service. In some countries, a phone does not even need to have a SIM card present to dial 112.

112 (emergency telephone number):

112 is a common emergency telephone number that can be dialed free of charge from most mobile telephones and, in some countries, fixed telephones in order to reach emergency services (ambulance, fire and rescue, police).

112 is a part of the GSM standard and all GSM-compatible telephone handsets are able to dial 112 even when locked or, in some countries, with no SIM card present. It is also the common emergency number in India and in nearly all member states of the European Union as well as several other countries of Europe and the world. 112 is often available alongside other numbers traditionally used in the given country to access emergency services. In some countries, calls to 112 are not connected directly but forwarded by the GSM network to local emergency numbers (e.g. 911 in North America or 000 in Australia).

Note: data-only sims might not be able to dial the emergency number in some countries.

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    @Tor-EinarJarnbjo: 911 and 911xxxx are different numbers (but on very very old switch boxes, Note, in US these numbers are all different: 0, 00, 01, 011 since 40 or more years). Commented Oct 29, 2019 at 13:02
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    @GiacomoCatenazzi Irrelevant, as I was not saying that 911xxxx may be a valid phone number in another country, but that 911 may be a valid phone number in another country. When dialing from a cell phone, such numbers can always be distinguished, since the number is dialled en-bloc and not digit for digit. There are BTW very few countries allowing distinct numbers as in your example, as a relatively long timeout is required to distinguish between 'the user really only wanted to dial a 0' and 'the user has dialled a 0 and further digits will follow'. Commented Oct 29, 2019 at 13:11
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    @Tor-EinarJarnbjo: 1- having 911 in contacts is not safe, better to have the +xxx911, but so there is a hack, 2- there is an official list of valid formats [really just for international calls, but still], I expect that developers checked it before to implement such thing, and possibly exclude it in the (probably inexistent) countries with 911 as valid number. 3- I think your case is just hypothetical (and probably less frequent then 112 used as real number [but this is implemented in GSM protocol]) Commented Oct 29, 2019 at 13:48
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    As far as I know the well known emergency numbers are not used in the countries that use other emergency numbers, so calling 112, 911 or 999 should get you the emergency services and nothing else in most of the world.
    – Willeke
    Commented Oct 29, 2019 at 15:46
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    @Tor-EinarJarnbjo: sorry, but you criticize an Android service with still an hypothetical case, and without knowing the exact implementation. Are you sure that 3 digit phone numbers really exists in Germany, in mobile phone services? Note every country should have either 112 or 911 (and possibly both) as emergency phone number, as ITU directive. And to avoid wrong dialing, I expect all existing 911 users already switched, time ago. Commented Oct 30, 2019 at 7:02

The information about 112 in another answer is correct. It is also true of 911, so to address your concerns explicitly,

not sure if I will be able to call the local emergency number (USA - 911) using a foreign (India) mobile number when I am in USA.

You will be able to do that. If your phone does not recognize 911 as an emergency number, it sends the call to the local cellular network tower, which will recognize that it is an emergency call and send it to the emergency call center. In this case, it doesn't matter where your phone or phone number is from, because the call is handled by the equipment of the local telephone company.

Though I have mentioned USA, I would also like to understand how it works in other countries as well.

The same thing happens. Whatever provisions may be in place for recognizing certain foreign emergency numbers as such, the local network will always recognize the local emergency number.

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    Your technical explanation is incorrect. When calling emergency services from a cell phone, the phone is not actually dialling a number over the air interface, but requesting an emergency call. The phone network will not know which number has been dialled, but that emergency services are required. The phone must decide based on the dialled number if it is an emergency call or not, it can not be done by the phone network. The distinction is required to give emergency calls priority on the air interface. Commented Oct 29, 2019 at 13:57
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    @Tor-EinarJarnbjo my phone does not recognize 000 as an emergency number (it refuses to place a call to 000 from the lock-screen emergency dialer). Does that mean that if I take this phone to Australia I would be unable to use it to place an emergency call?
    – phoog
    Commented Oct 29, 2019 at 14:05
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    It means that your phone will try to dial 000 as a regular number if possible. The call will not be given priority. If the cell you are connected to is congested, your call will not go through. You will also not be able to make the call if you are only within reach of a network, with which you don't have a roaming agreement. Depending on how the network handles the difference between regular calls and emergency calls, emergency specific features like caller location may not be available. Commented Oct 29, 2019 at 14:29
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    Why should I write an answer? The technical details on how an emergency call is routed in a cell phone network is completely irrelevant for the normal user. I am not sure why you went into such details in your answer, especially when your explanation is incorrect. Commented Oct 29, 2019 at 14:58
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    @Tor-EinarJarnbjo You should write an answer because the question includes "I would also like to understand how it works in other countries as well." I wrote this answer because there ought to be an answer saying "you can call 911" and the other answer doesn't say it. From your response to my question about Australia, it appears that this answer was not in fact incorrect, just incomplete. I have edited it accordingly.
    – phoog
    Commented Oct 29, 2019 at 15:36

In the United States, you can make an emergency 911 phone call from a mobile phone without a SIM. As long as your phone can communicate with the network (supports the same frequency and standard), you can call 911. This is governed by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

The FCC's basic 911 rules require wireless service providers to transmit all 911 calls to a PSAP, regardless of whether the caller subscribes to the provider's service or not.

If you do not have service, there are even instructions about calling back in the event your emergency call is disconnected:

If you do not have a contract for service with a service provider and your emergency wireless call gets disconnected, you must call the emergency operator back because the operator will not have your telephone number and cannot contact you.

  • Note that while the call will go through there may be some skepticism about what you are telling them. Commented Oct 31, 2019 at 10:27
  • Additional info: PSAP means public service answering point. This is the facility where the human emergency operator(s) sit. Commented Jan 3, 2022 at 22:24

Data point:

In NZ the emergency number is 111.

112 works to call emergency services from a GSM phone - I just tried.
Nobody has ever told me this before now.

Dialling 112 from a landline accesses a very slowly and clearly spoken message - ~~=

  • "The NZ emergency service number is one one one.
    That is ONE ..... ONE .... ONE.
    Please hang up the receiver then slowly and carefully dial one one one"
    Repeats ....

In any ITU country, dialing 911, or 112 should connect you to emergency services if the phone physically works. (I probably shouldn't go and test this, but any emergency number I could think of worked where I live a few years ago.)

112 is more standard in the EU, and 911 in North America. I have gotten connected to emergency services in the EU dialing 911, but don't count on it.

It's separate from your phone plan, and separate from regular phone number routing. So it isn't like a regular phone number.

  • Can you define ITU? And this is not correct, as the United States emergency phone call system does not forward 112 calls (Both numbers do work in Canada, Brazil, Chile, most British territorial holdings in Americas, New Zealand, and Saudi Arabia). The largest nations in North America all use 911 (Mexico only recently implemented).
    – hszmv
    Commented Oct 31, 2019 at 13:33

Per Emergency Communication Version 1.0 01 July 2021 - GSMA (PDF)

When an end user dials a number related to an emergency, or a [sic], the UE shall check if this number is identified as a valid emergency number. The following nominal cases are identified by the UE as valid emergency scenarios: [...]

  • Standard emergency numbers dialled by the user (112 and 911) [...]

If the UE has identified an emergency number (as defined above), the UE initiates a emergency call setup procedure, enabling high priority in case of network congestion.

Translating from telecomese to English, if any GSM-compatible (read: modern) "User Equipment" (read: mobile phone) anywhere in the world dials 112 or 911, the network must treat it as an emergency call and route to emergency services. All other numbers are country-specific.

Obligatory disclaimer: just because the official standard says something doesn't mean every phone or every network actually complies in real life, but in practice this is basic stuff and they all do. Also, the relationship between GSM the original 2G standard, GSMA the association, and newer standards like 3/4/5G is complex, but the doc above was last updated in July 2021 so yes, it's still current and relevant.

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