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Safety and Emergencies for Expats in the United Kingdom

Author: Jim Newham
Submitted: September 2014

Safety – Natural Hazards

Britain is a safe country with respect to the dangers posed by the natural world. Severe storms and floods sometimes occur, causing some fatalities and great damage to property. In 2013, there was serious flooding in many parts of the country, especially in South-West England, parts of which were underwater for months. Other than this, though, natural disasters are very rare and there are not even any dangerous wild animals.


Safety – Man-made Hazards

Crime levels are low on an international scale and have been falling countrywide for several years. The highest levels are in the inner cities of Glasgow, London and Belfast. In most parts of the country, you are unlikely to experience any trouble. Walking the streets in the daytime is mostly safe. You may need to take care crossing the streets, however. Driving is on the left side of the road in Britain, meaning it is best to get into the habit of always looking both ways before you cross the road.

There are rather more problems going out at night, as alcohol-related violence can be problematic. Most of these occur between young men in town and city centres at the weekend. It is important to be aware of aggressive behaviour. If you are confronted or threatened, it is best not to retaliate, but just walk away from the situation. Note also that Britain has clear laws on race relations, and the police will take seriously any attack or threatening behaviour towards you because of your race or nationality.

If you are a woman, you do need to be careful to avoid situations where you are vulnerable. If drinking in a public place, make sure you know where your friends are at all times. Ensure you always use a licensed taxi – one with an official licence plate on the back. The only taxis that can legally pick you up when you hail them on the street are the black ‘Hackney’ cabs with an orange light on the top. Avoid all others that stop for you, even if licensed. If you are concerned about being attacked or threatened, one option is to use the Text You Home service. This cheap service enables you to send an alert to friends and family if you are in danger.

Petty theft is a problem in major tourist areas and on public transport. To prevent such crimes, it is important to stay aware of what is going on around you and keep valuables such as money, jewellery, mobile phones and laptops out of sight as much as possible. It is also important to take out insurance on the contents of your home and your belongings; many insurance companies can help you with this.

There have been terrorist attacks in the past, and currently the authorities consider the threat from terrorism to be high. It is therefore important to remain vigilant and report any suspicious activity you do see. There are occasional protests and demonstrations that do sometimes turn violent. It is best to avoid such events.



The emergency numbers to use in the UK are given in the table below. All calls are free of charge. The emergency operator will answer in English, though interpreters into several other languages are often available.

Emergency Service No. Alternative no.
Police 999 112
Fire Brigade

Both these numbers can be dialled from any telephone, including a mobile phone without a SIM card, though many locals are unfamiliar with the EU-wide 112 number. Be aware that these numbers are only for serious or life-threatening situations that need immediate attention. In a police non-emergency, you can dial 101 in Great Britain, or 0845 6008000 in Northern Ireland. These numbers put you through to your local police service. Alternatively, you can go to your nearest police station.



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