What to do in an Emergency (& how to prevent one)

Today’s blog was inspired by two robbers who broke into my apartment. Motivated by robbery, I wanted to cover several scenarios that merit an “emergency” status, so I’ve also included a leak (I had one in 2022), a flood (I had one in 2017), a fire (touch wood) and having your small valuable items stolen. We also cover how to best prevent these incidents!

Overall we thought it might be helpful to make sure you know how to handle different emergencies. Here’s what you need to know:


If your wallet or phone is stolen:

  • Immediately call your bank to cancel any credit cards or report the theft of your phone to your service provider. You can read in Antje’s interview how quickly the thieves went to work on her documents!
  • If you still have your phone it can be quicker to use your banking app to immediately cancel cards or put a “hold” on them so if you think you just lost one you can sometimes take the hold off instead of completely canceling!
  • Report the theft to the police as soon as possible. Do this either online or by going to your nearest police station.
  • Write down the details of what was stolen, including any serial numbers or descriptions of the items. Add these to your opened report with the police.

How to best prevent your wallet or phone from being stolen:

While there is no foolproof way to prevent theft, try to keep your belongings close to you and always be aware of your surroundings. Keep your wallet and/or phone close to your body, especially in crowded areas. If you have to use either, hold it close to you and keep a tight grip. Do not carry large amounts of cash.

Nowadays it’s common to be able to set “plafonds” for withdrawing cash or spending money, keep yours quite low so if someone steals the card they can only withdraw €100 or spend up to €300 on the card. Password-proof your phone and back it up regularly, this way when it goes missing, you keep your data. Install a tracking app on your phone which can help you remotely track or lock it once it’s gone. 

Breaking & Entering

If someone breaks into your home:

As someone who lives in Paris, the best mindset to have is not to wonder if someone will try and rob your home, but that it will happen, and you can only best prepare for when this moment happens.

  • Call the police immediately.
  • Do not touch anything or move anything in the room until the police arrive.
  • Call your insurance, especially if there was damage to the door. Only an insurance-approved locksmith will be reimbursed, so don’t go calling a locksmith on your own, the cost will be horrendous and you won’t get reimbursed!
  • Write down what was stolen or damaged and start gathering invoices if you have any. 
  • File a proper police report, you will need to go there in person – be mindful that you’ll probably have to wait a few hours until it’s your turn to give your statement. You need to file the report for the report number, which is mandatory to file an insurance claim.
  • Open a claim with your insurance – this can take forever, so I won’t give any advice here.

How to best prevent your home from being broken into:

Keep your home locked when you leave. Consider installing deadbolts or other security locks for added protection, if you can. Investing in a home security system, such as a burglar alarm, will significantly reduce your chances of being burgled, as thieves like to work in silence. To quote the policeman who came to my home after my robbery: “people with burglar alarms do not get burgled”. 

Don’t advertise your absence, avoid announcing you’re gone for a prolonged amount of time on social media or telling taxi drivers or delivery people, any strangers, really. Finally, get a security camera for your house. This way you can monitor your home while you are gone, and any wrongdoings are caught on tape which you can later share with the police.


If you have a leak:

  • Turn off the water supply to stop the leak. 
  • Turn off the electricity supply to avoid any risk of electrocution.
  • If you need a plumber, call your insurance to get it validated by them – if you don’t, they won’t pay for it. This is how I once lost €4000.
  • If the leak is affecting a neighbour’s property, let them know what’s happening, tell them your insurance has been informed and that you are working on resolving this. They, too, will contact their insurance.
  • Call the fire station if the water is rising quickly, they will help you once they arrive
  • Move your furniture and belongings to higher ground if possible.

How to best prevent a leak:

Regularly inspect your pipes for signs of corrosion, wear, or damage. If you notice any problems, get them repaired as soon as possible. High water pressure can cause pipes to burst, so make sure to check your home’s water pressure regularly and adjust it if necessary. Insulating pipes can help prevent them from freezing during the winter, which can cause leaks.

If you have old plumbing in your home, consider replacing it. Older pipes are more likely to leak or burst, and they may also contain harmful substances like lead. Only flush toilet paper and human waste down the toilet. Flushing other items like wipes, sanitary products, or cooking fat can clog pipes and lead to leaks. Personally, if I wasn’t sure, I would cut the main water mine at my home when I would leave the house, “just in case”.


If you experience a fire:

  • Call the fire station immediately – dial 18
  • Evacuate the building as quickly as possible.
  • Stay low to avoid smoke inhalation.
  • Once you are out of the building, do not go back in until the fire department gives the all-clear.

How to best prevent a fire:

Ensure that you have smoke detectors installed on every level of your home and in each bedroom. Test them monthly and replace the batteries at least once a year. Stay in the kitchen when you’re cooking and keep a close eye on your food. Keep flammable items like oven mitts and paper towels away from the stove, and always make sure you turn off the stove and oven when you finished preparing your meal.

Don’t overload electrical outlets: this can cause them to spark and start a fire. Make sure to use only one plug per outlet and avoid using extension cords when possible. If you have a space heaters, keep them at least three feet away from flammable items and never leave them unattended. Store flammable liquids like gasoline, paint thinner, and alcohol in a cool, dry place, away from heat sources and sparks.

Now that we’ve covered what to do in case of an emergency, let’s talk about how to best prepare for an emergency and in some cases avoid it altogether, as it’s important to be prepared and know what to do when the time comes. Make sure you have emergency contact numbers with you at all times, and make sure you know the location of the nearest police station, fire station, and hospital. If you follow these guidelines, you’ll be better prepared to handle any situation that may come.


Car Accidents

If you witness a car accident in France, ensure your own safety and move away from the accident scene if necessary.

  • Immediately call the emergency services by dialing 112 or 18 (for firefighters) or 15 (for medical emergencies).
  • They will ask you for details about the accident, including the location and the number of people involved.
  • Do not move the injured unless it is necessary to prevent further harm.

It is also a good idea to take photos of the accident scene if you can do so safely.

Health Emergencies

  • Call the emergency services by dialing 15 (SAMU) or 112.
  • They will ask you about the situation and location, if you’re not confident in French try to find a French-speaker on the scene
  • Follow any instructions provided by the operator, such as administering first aid if you have the necessary skills.
  • If the injured person is conscious, try to keep them calm and comfortable while waiting for the emergency services to arrive.
  • If the person is unconscious, check their breathing and pulse, and be prepared to perform first aid and CPR if necessary.
  • Try to gather any relevant medical information about the person, such as allergies or medication they are taking, to provide to the emergency services.