With one of the highest crime rates in the world and more than 2,700 road accidents per day, your chances of landing in a life-threatening emergency in South Africa are relatively high.
Mobile phones make it easy to get help quickly but for some it’s difficult to know who to call.
From a young age, many South Africans are taught to dial the 10111 number to contact the police for assistance or when reporting a crime.
Alternatively, they can dial 10177 for non-crime related emergencies, such as a medical incident or fire.
While these numbers are toll-free – which means they can be called even in instances when a phone user does not have airtime or voice minutes – South Africa’s public emergency services are not highly regarded for their responsiveness.
Many will have heard of police officers only pitching up at crime scenes hours after being called.
This means that many citizens turn to private security or medical companies to get quick access to help.
For medical emergencies, these include Netcare’s 082 911, and ER24’s 084 124.
However, while private services are typically better than public services, these numbers still require an active SIM card.
This is why cellphone users should make themselves familiar with the 112 number, which is useful in many instances.
How 112 works
The 112 numbers forms part of the GSM standard, and is effectively South Africa’s equivalent of the US’s 911 or UK’s 999 emergency numbers.
Notably, this number will work on any cellphone in South Africa even with no airtime or voice minutes.
In terms of their operating licences, mobile networks must prioritise emergency calls from this number and if the network is busy, other calls will be dropped to take your emergency call.
Mobile networks must provide access to five emergency services, namely fire, ambulance, police, sea rescue, and traffic.
After calling 112, you will be directed to an automated menu which is used to prioritise cases.
This will patch your call through to your network operator’s emergency contact centre, who will assist in getting the appropriate emergency services to your location.
Numbers to know
Memorising the 112 number can be one of the best ways to get the help you need in various scenarios.
For instances where your emergency is more specific in nature, there are several public and private providers you can contact.
The table below shows a list of helpful emergency numbers to have on hand in South Africa.
|All||Mobile network operator emergency call centre||112|
|Crime||SA Police Service||10111|
|Accidents||Arrive Alive||0861 400 800|
|Poisoning||Bloemfontein region||082 491 0160|
|KwaZulu-Natal region||080 033 3444|
|Red Cross||021 689 5227|
|Tygerberg region||021 931 6129|
|Mountain rescue||Gauteng||074 125 1385 / 074 163 3952|
|KwaZulu-Natal||031 307 7744|
|Western Cape||021 948 9900|
|Self-harm or suicidal thoughts||Life Line||0861 322 322|
|SADAG Mental Health Line||011 234 4837|
|Suicide Crisis Line||0800 567 567|
|Child abuse||Childline||0800 05 55 55|
|Domestic abuse||Gender-Based Violence Command Centre||0800 428 428 / 0800 150 150|