The Silent Solution

If you’re in immediate danger but are unable to speak, what should you do?

The answer: dial 999 and let the operator know that your call is genuine using these steps:

  • If you can, try to speak to the operator even if you only whisper a few words;
  • If making a sound will put you or someone else in danger, please hold the line and listen carefully to the instructions. You will be asked to dial 55;
  • While on the phone, try to avoid covering the microphone so the operator can hear important background noise.

Emergency 999 helpline operators use a system called the Silent Solution. It was introduced to filter out accidental dials and hoax calls often made using mobile phones.

To ensure that nobody in need of genuine help is missed, callers who are unable to speak will be able to alert the operator to an emergency by pressing 55.

Chief Inspector Ian Gennery, of the Force Control Room, said: “In an emergency, the best option will always be to call 999 and let the operator know which emergency service you need, even if you’re only able to say a few words.

“If you explain that you’re worried about being heard, the operator will be able to ask you simple yes and no questions which you could answer with a cough or by tapping the keys on your phone.

“If you fear your situation may escalate if you’re heard, please stay on the phone and listen carefully to the instructions.

“If you’ve called on a mobile, you will shortly hear an automated message asking you to press 55 if your call is genuine – this is known as the Silent Solution system.

“If you press 55, the operator will be notified and will transfer the call to the police. If you don’t press 55, the call will be terminated.”

Pressing 55 on a mobile does not allow police to track your location, so it is crucial that you listen to any further instructions given by the call handler.

If you call 999 on a landline and are unable to speak, the operator will pass you straight to police if they’re concerned. This is because it’s much less likely for people to accidentally call 999 using a landline.

Chief Inspector Gennery added: “Unless it will put you in further danger, we would also urge you to try to get into a position where background noise can be heard by the operator and to avoid covering your microphone.

“If they can hear shouting or anything concerning in the background, they will put you through to one of our call handlers.

“If there is even the slightest amount of concern that a caller may be in danger, our operators and call handlers will act quickly to determine the help you need.

“Even if you call 999 in error, please do not hang up the call as the time spent contacting you to make sure you’re okay could be spent helping someone else.

“Instead, please tell the operator that emergency assistance is not required.”

For non-emergency reports, please call 101 or visit: https://www.essex.police.uk

You can also use the ‘Live Chat’ button to speak with the same team who respond to emergency calls.

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Mick Ferris

Editor Email: [email protected]