Silent 999 Calls: How to Secure Police Assistance in the UK?

It is generally presumed that everyone in the UK knows how to access emergency services when something goes wrong. But the numerous mishaps that have happened over the years, with some of them ending in tragedy, prove that some confusion regarding the use of emergency numbers still persists. If you have an emergency that requires […]

It is generally presumed that everyone in the UK knows how to access emergency services when something goes wrong. But the numerous mishaps that have happened over the years, with some of them ending in tragedy, prove that some confusion regarding the use of emergency numbers still persists.

If you have an emergency that requires the assistance of the police, in most cases, you are going to dial either 999 or 101.

Dialling 999

The 999 option isn’t quite as straightforward as some people think. In most cases, if you have an emergency and you dial 999, the quickest and easiest way to get help is to talk to the operator, to tell them who you are, where you live and why you need their assistance.

But what if you cannot speak? Some people think that, by simply calling 999, they are guaranteed a police response regardless of whether or not they speak. But that is not remotely true. If you call 999 but your situation prevents you from speaking, you are encouraged to, at the very least, whisper.

The operator will ask you to explain what you want; whether you need Fire, Police, or an Ambulance. If you do not respond, they will ask you to review your number as some people dial 999 by accident. They will also encourage you to release the line if you do not need emergency services.

But what happens if you do need emergency services but can’t speak? Naturally, you are going to stay on the line. But, again, this isn’t enough to bring emergency services to your door. By choosing to stay on the line, you are merely informing the operator that you might have an emergency that keeps you from talking.

They will attempt to ascertain the exact nature of your situation by asking you to cough, tap the handset, or make any kind of noise if you have a real emergency but you cannot talk. You need to perform one of these tasks if the situation allows.

But if your scenario is so precarious that the smallest noise could endanger your life, you will probably stay silent. However, you are still not out of options. At this point, the operator will send your call to a system that will ask you to press 55 on the keypad if you need police assistance. 

Only by pressing 55 are you guaranteed a police response despite your silence. It is much easier to speak to the operator. But if you must stay silent, a mechanism has been provided that you can use to acquire help regardless.

Dialling 101

101 and 999 are very different numbers. They are both emergency numbers that will connect you to the police. However, 101 is the number you dial when you need the police but your situation is not an emergency.

For instance, you can use it to report a crime where the culprit is already gone. You can also use it to offer evidence or information, to make an inquiry, or to merely verify the identity of a police officer.

This number is attached to a system that will connect you to the police force in your area, though you can choose to be redirected to the police force in another area. People have been known to confuse 101 with NHS 111. It was also previously less popular than 999 because it cost a flat rate of 15p for each call. But as of the 1st of April 2020, you can call 101 for free.

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