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The world’s oldest emergency services number, 999, has recently turned 80. Launched following a fire at a London doctor’s surgery in 1935, the number has saved the lives of countless UK residents ever since – and today receives around 560,000 calls a week!

While the 999 emergency number is an amazing service, no one wants to be in a position where they are required to call it. Unfortunately, many of us will have to call 999 (or 112) at some point in our lives. But how can you alert those taking the call that you require assistance if you’re in a situation where you can’t talk?

The emergency services have previously announced that they won’t automatically investigate calls if they can’t hear anything on the other side. This is to save the already over-stretched services responding to pocket calls and pranks.

However, to ensure that people requiring assistance – but who are unable to talk – receive help, there are two solutions in place. Very few people know about these potentially life-saving features.

• Cough or noise – If you dial 999 and remain silent, the operator will ask you to cough or make another audible noise. If you do, they will connect you directly to the police.
• Silent Solutions – There may, however, be instances when even coughing may be dangerous. In these situations, you need to dial “55”, which will also connect you to the police.

In both situations, operators may attempt to communicate with a person making silent call by asking them to tap on their receiver or mobile phone screen. For example, one tap for “no”, two taps for “yes”.

It’s important to remember that emergency service operators will not automatically know your location. Though they can track landline calls to an address, mobile calls are only typically traceable to a grid reference. A more expensive procedure can trace a mobile phone to a few metres, so, in a genuine emergency, the operator will need to be able to ascertain that you are in real danger – either by hearing suspicious noises or via “silent” communication such as tapping.

Since 2014, smartphones which have WiFi or GPS based location switched on will send an emergency SMS that will inform the operator of your location while the call is in progress.

To date, Silent Solutions has had some successful results, including a Kensington woman who made a silent 999 call when she was attacked in her home, leading the police to trace her call and capture her assailant. Still, if more people knew about Silent Solutions, there would likely be many more successes.

999 is an incredible service. And features like Silent Solutions are well worth knowing about – they may even save your life. Raise awareness by sharing this article with your friends and family.

Churchill Security is a leading UK security company. We supply first-class security solutions to organisations and businesses throughout Britain. Get in touch to find out how we can help you.


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John Melling is a Director for Churchill Security Ltd. John is a highly motivated, determined and decisive security industry professional. Drawing on his extensive experience gained within the security industry whilst working on the coalface John has operated at all levels within the industry. He has a proven track record for motivating and leading high performance teams and has helped mentor and develop many people at Churchill who now hold key or senior positions within the business. John is committed to delivering only the finest services, exercising compelling leadership, maintaining good internal morale and striving to resolve any challenges efficiently and effectively.