This month, The Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) launched a campaign to raise awareness of how to call 999 when you are too frightened to speak out loud. The advice applies to all situations – whether you are trapped in a violent or abusive situation situation at home, in a building with an intruder or even caught up in a terrorist attack.
999 calls in numbers
UK police receive a staggering eight million plus 999 calls every year, with the number constantly rising year on year. This number does not include the millions of non emergency calls that are made using the the 101 service.
This equates to an average of 80,000 999 calls to the police every day, of which as many as 20,000 are silent calls. Based on screening, around 5,000 of these silent calls are put through to an automated system.
The silent 999 system
The most important message of the campaign is that simply dialling 999 does not guarantee that the police will be able to help you. There is, however, a system in place to ensure that those who genuinely need help and are unable to speak can communicate with police.
Callers who do not speak to the operator are led through a series of prompts, including an instruction to tap the handset, cough or make a sound. If these fail to get a response, the caller will be asked to press 55 to confirm there is a genuine emergency.
Although the system has been in operation since 2002, police say many callers don’t understand, or use it correctly.
The purpose of the system, called Silent Solution, is to filter out the thousands of accidental or hoax silent 999 calls made daily – but it also could lead to genuine calls being terminated if the callers do not respond to the prompts.
Press 55 to get help
IOPC Regional director Catrin Evans says:
“It is always best to actually speak to a police call handler if you can, even if by whispering, but if you are putting yourself or someone else in danger by making a sound, there is something you can do.
“Make yourself heard by coughing, tapping the handset or – once prompted by the automated system – by pressing 55.”