The Protection Civile de Paris, or PCP, is a non-profit, volunteer-based organization of first-aid responders in Paris. You might notice their presence in the blue and orange uniforms manning first-aid posts at public events like music festivals or sporting events. They also reinforce fire department paramedics and SAMU ambulances by acting as first-responders for emergency medical calls, natural disasters, and first-aid assistance for the homeless. There are over 600 volunteers of all ages and professions currently serving in the PCP.
They also educate the public by offering beginner and advanced first-aid certification courses (including PSC1, PSE1 and PSE2). I took the PSC1 (Prévention Secours Civiques) last weekend in my neighborhood and not only learned about how to use the emergency heart defibrillators found in most public building in Paris, but also how to assist the most common medical emergencies, including how to properly make an emergency call.
For example, 18 will get you the fire department paramedics (they can stabilize someone and get them to a hospital), while 15 will get you the SAMU, which sends the doctor directly to you (with an ambulance if needed). All numbers, including 17 for the police, go to the same central switchboard, so it’s not actually a big deal if you can’t recall which number to dial or aren’t sure, but it’s faster if you do. Don’t speak French? Dial 112 anywhere within Europe and you’ll get an emergency switchboard available in every EU language (including English). Best of all, these numbers work for free on any phone, even if they’re locked or out of network range (the emergency network is separate).
I highly recommend taking a class to brush up on your Heimlich maneuver and CPR skills, and also to learn some very important vocabulary you’ll never need until you really need it: a stroke in French is an “accident vasculaire cérébral” (or AVC).