Risks and dangers are always present in the mountains due to difficult terrain and challenging conditions. Therefore, it’s vital to be aware of the contact numbers to call in case of an emergency.
In this guide, we outline the different services and how to contact them in the event of:
- You or someone else experiencing an injury, illness or distress;
- Being lost or trapped in difficult conditions;
- You or someone around you facing a potentially dangerous situation (severe weather conditions, landslide, risk of hypothermia, avalanche or animal attack).
In the demanding environment of the French Alps, emergencies are handled by three public services:
- Police officers from the Republican Mountain Safety Companies (CRS);
- Gendarmes from the Mountain Gendarmerie Platoons (PGM) and the High Mountain Gendarmerie Platoons (PGHM);
- Firefighters who are members of the firefighters’ mountain groups (GMSP) or reconnaissance and intervention groups in hazardous environments (GRIMP).
Within the Haute-Savoie region, the Association Départementale des Sociétés de Secours en Montagne (which currently has some 550 volunteer rescuers) also supports the PGHM, CRS and GMPS units in mountain rescue operations.
However, in ski resorts, safety and rescue operations are the responsibility of the local authorities and are carried out (for a fee) by the resort’s ski patrol.
Summer emergency numbers
112 is a free emergency number accessible anywhere in Europe, 24 hours a day and can be used to contact the local services, determined by the caller’s location.
This number has many advantages:
- It works from a locked or SIM-free phone;
- You can dial it from a landline or mobile phone;
- It is the only number that works more reliably without a network;
- The call is directed to the nearest emergency centre.
You’ll need to give the person you’re talking to complete and accurate information. To do this, the French fire department recommends the following steps:
- INTRODUCE YOURSELF – Provide your name and phone number.
- GIVE YOUR LOCATION – Say where you are as precisely as possible: the area in which you are located (mountain range, summit) and the route you are taking. If possible, give GPS coordinates and altitude.
- DESCRIBE THE SITUATION – Specify the activity and circumstances of the accident, as well as the number of victims and the total number of people present. Describe the condition of the victim(s) and the actions taken.
- GIVE DETAILS OF THE INTERVENTION AREA – Describe the weather conditions in the area and the possibility of receiving a helicopter (if the area is clear or not…). Indicate the type of clothing worn, and in particular the colour of the clothing, so that you can be clearly identified.
- ANSWER ADDITIONAL QUESTIONS – Rescue workers will be able to act more quickly and be better prepared for the intervention.
- REMAIN CONTACTABLE – Be sure to leave the line available so that you can be contacted again if necessary.
If the network is too weak for a call, you might still be able to send a text message to 114. Though intended for those with hearing or speech impairments, it’s a good alternative if you don’t have a phone signal.
However, do note this number has a longer and more limited processing time than the one mentioned above. Therefore, if you need help, start by calling 112 (the European emergency number) before using 114.
The Gendloc app
Gendloc is an application designed by the national gendarmerie to locate people in difficulty, lost or injured in the mountains.
To use the service, follow these steps:
- Call for help from a mobile phone and explain the situation to the responder, who will then send an HTML link by SMS;
- Click on the link contained in the SMS to allow geolocation;
- The exact position will immediately appear on the computer mapping and will be sent directly to the rescuers, who can then intervene more quickly and accurately.
Your holiday in the Alps
Winter emergency numbers
First-aid ski patrollers
First-aid patrollers are available to provide assistance on the slopes, however, in some cases, other emergency services will have to get involved. This only tends to happen if the situation exceeds the resort team’s resources or if assistance is needed outside the resort.
The number of the Piste Service varies depending on the resort and can be found on all the slopes, so it’s a good idea to take note of it when you arrive and keep it handy.
You can also call 112 or 15 if you cannot find the direct number and if you do not have a working mobile phone, you can go to a ski lift to warn a station agent who will call the patrollers.
Here is the information you will need to give to the emergency services when you call:
- The identity of the accident victim (name, surname, sex and age);
- The nature of the injury;
- The causes of the accident;
- The accident location: the name of the piste and the number of the nearest beacon (these can be found every 100m along the piste).
Emergency numbers to call in any season
- European emergency number: 112
- SAMU (medical services): 15
- Police: 17
- Firefighters: 18
- Hearing impaired: 114
- Sea rescue: 196
- Poison Control Centre: The number varies depending on the region. In the Alps, you will have to contact the nearest poison centre, in Lyon, on 04 72 11 69 11.
For more information on emergency numbers check out our guide to finding medical help in the mountains
The mountains are a difficult and demanding environment where accidents can happen quickly. Therefore, to minimise the risks, it is important to prepare for your stay as well as possible. Take the correct equipment, research your route and ensure it suits all abilities in your group.
Additionally, check the weather conditions, carry a first aid kit, never take unnecessary risks, and prepare yourself physically and mentally for the Alps.
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