Have you ever wondered what happens if you have an emergency when you live in Panama? What if you need to call the police, fire department or need an ambulance but don’t speak Spanish?
There is a 911 service in Panama, but the emergency operator will probably only speak Spanish. And there is a special “tourist police” emergency number, 511 9260, but it is primarily for Panama City.
TO THE RESCUE…
Some, but not all, communities in Panama have a private bi-lingual emergency number you can call 24 hours a day to get the help you need. These are usually paid subscriptions services. The small fee is worth the peace of mind to know you always have someone you can call when you need the police, fire department, ambulance or even roadside assistance.
In Boquete I subscribe to an emergency service that is $80 a year. Members log in to their website to enter your contact information, directions to your house (many houses do not have an address), list of medications, your doctor’s information, emergency contact both locally and internationally, and even pet sitter information. Once you enter your information, you are assigned a number. If you have an emergency, you just tell the operator your number and what kind of help you need, like “I’m number 1234 and I need an ambulance.” The emergency service company has instant access to directions to my house so they can give it to the ambulance, police or fire department. The bi-lingual operator will stay on the line with you until help arrives and they will notify your emergency contacts.
If you are moving to Panama with pre-existing health problems, you should consider living in an area where a private bi-lingual emergency service is available. You should also take in to consideration where the closest 24-hour hospital is located… just in case.
Last weekend, in Boquete, a friend’s husband went for a short walk. He has dementia and Parkinson’s disease. He got disoriented and could not find his home. He had no idea where he lived or how to get there so he just kept walking and walking. Someone saw him and offered to give him a ride and help find his family. Luckily, there is a free email service where they could send out 1 email and it goes to thousands of people in Panama who have subscribed.
They sent out a message that they had my friend’s husband and where looking for his family. They gave a contact number. When I saw the message, I immediately called his wife who had been frantically looking for her husband for more than 2 hours. They were united a few minutes later.
This valuable service can be used when a pet is lost, a family member has not been heard from, and it is also used to notify the community of upcoming events. This email service is also used to notify the community about storms or rip tides in certain areas.
WHEN THINGS GET BAD….
Some communities in Panama also have hospice and free short-term healthcare help after a surgery, including hospital beds, walkers plus volunteers who bring food, get you to follow up doctor visits, and assist with recovery.
In addition, each Embassy has a person assigned to each province to assist people from that country. These volunteers are called wardens. If, Heaven forbid, you should get put in jail or get in a car accident, the warden for your Embassy will be notified so they can offer assistance to you.
YOUR NEW FAMILY…
When you move to Panama, you will quickly make a lot of new friends (expats and Panamanians) who you can call if you need help too. The friends in your new community are like a new family. But it’s also comforting to know that there are so many different ways you can get help when needed.
If you are thinking of moving overseas, it is important to investigate what kind of emergency services are available to you. As you can see, Panama has many different systems in place to help foreigners in emergency situations.