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How to Call for Emergency Help in Australia

BY JO SIMON

October 26, 2020

Having the ability to call for emergency help is incredibly important, especially if you are a beginner camper and are still learning the do's and don'ts of camping and travelling into remote areas.

This article includes links to trusted and reputable sources and is provided subject to our Terms. Here's how to call for help in Australia:

Telephone calls for help

In case of emergency

Australia's primary emergency telephone number (triple zero - 000) will direct you to the Australian police, fire or ambulance services. It should be called when a situation is threatening to life or property, or is time-critical, such as:

  • if someone is seriously injured or in need of urgent medical help
  • if your life or property is being threatened
  • if you just witnessed a serious accident or crime

Dial triple zero (000) from fixed or mobile / cell phones, satellite phones and pay phones. Certain Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) services are also compatible.

You can also
Dial 112 in Australia from mobile / cell phones and satellite phones within range of any GSM service to reach the Australian emergency services triple zero (000) line. If you are in an area with poor mobile coverage, dialling 112 may give you a better chance of reaching the emergency services than dialling triple zero (000).

Dial 106 for emergencies if you are deaf or have a speech or hearing impairment. This is a text-based service and does not accept voice calls.

Dialling 911 will NOT direct your call to the emergency services.

Emergency+ App

The Emergency+ app uses the GPS functionality built into smart phones to help you to provide critical location details to help mobilise emergency services. Download the app onto your phone and use it to contact emergency services if you don't know your exact location.

The Emergency+ app is a free app developed by Australia's emergency services and their government and industry partners.

For non-emergencies

  • Call 132 500 for storm or flood assistance
  • Call 131 444 to contact police other than in an emergency

Phone coverage

Calls from mobile / cell phones to emergency services cannot be connected in areas without mobile phone coverage, which can happen even in unexpected locations but especially in remote areas of Australia. Satellite phones connect to satellites rather than mobile phone towers and are much more reliable.

Read more on the Australian Government website:

Read more on the Australian Government's Health Direct website:

Distress beacons

Distress beacons such as Personal locator beacons (PLBs) can be activated anywhere on the earth's surface when your life is in danger and you are unable to contact emergency services. Once activated, the international search and rescue satellite system will notify the nearest search and rescue authorities.

Distress beacons are to only be used in situations of grave and imminent danger and are required to be registered with the Australian Maritime Safety Authority via their website (see website link below).

Read more on the Australian Maritime Safety Authority website:

Ground distress signals

When you are facing an emergency in the outdoors, outlined below are common signals you can use, as appropriate, to help alert and communicate with ground or air rescuers:

  • Three regularly spaced signals are recognised distress signals to attract rescuers, made by whatever you have available - blasts on a whistle, shouts, flashes of light from a torch or mirror, banging the spoon on a billy. Repeat after a one-minute pause until a response is received.
  • V marked out on the ground communicates to air rescuers that you need assistance but not medical attention.
  • X marked out on the ground communicates to air rescuers that you need assistance and someone in your party needs medical attention.
  • → (an arrow) indicates to proceed in this direction – useful to provide additional directions once rescuers have arrived or to indicate the direction in which you have travelled.
  • Y to signal yes or affirmative – raise both arms to form the letter Y.
  • N to signal no or negative – stretch one arm up and one down imitating the letter N.

Ground to air communication can help guide rescuers to your location as well as let them know if anyone is injured. You should choose a large, flat, open area as close as possible to your location, and ensure your signal is as large as possible and contrasting to the surrounding terrain.

Read more on Wikipedia:

For further reading


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