What to do if you need to call 999 – but can’t talk?

There is a misconception that the police will always attend if you stay silent after calling 999 – this is not correct.

When you dial 999 anywhere in the UK, your call is answered by telephone operators from BT, who will then direct your call to the most appropriate emergency service.

f you dial 999 but are unable to speak, keep the line open and listen carefully to what the emergency operator says.

At the start of the call they will ask: “Emergency which service?

If you do not respond they will then ask: “Do you need Fire, Police or Ambulance?

If you still do not respond the operator will say: “What number have you dialled please? I cannot release your line until you say that you do not need an emergency service

and then:

If you are unable to speak but need an emergency service, please tap the handset, cough or make a noise”.

If the operator does not get a response to any of the above questions but can hear background voices, they can connect the call to a system that asks you to press “55” on your keypad if you want the police.

Responding in one of the above ways will prompt the operator to quickly connect to the police.

Please note: – We do not recommend that anyone calls 999 silently.

In an emergency it can be safer and quicker to speak to a police call handler even if you have to whisper, but if there is no option but to make a silent call you must listen to the emergency operator and respond to any instructions as above to ensure that your call is identified as an emergency, routed to the police control room and logged and dealt with appropriately.


Register your mobile phone for EMERGENCY SMS

To register, text ‘register’ to 999.

Emergency SMS is similar to the police’s Silent Solution – which allows callers to inform emergency call handlers they require police assistance without making a sound.

The EmergencySMS service allows people to silently request urgent assistance from police, as well as paramedics, the fire brigade and the coastguard.


Here’s how to do it:

Firstly, you must register your mobile phone number with emergency services before you can request help via text.

  1.  Send the word ‘register’ in an SMS message to 999
  2. You will then receive SMS messages about the service
  3. When you have read these SMS messages reply by sending ‘yes’ in an SMS message to 999
    4. You will receive a SMS message telling you that your mobile phone is registered or if there is a problem with your registration.

Just to really push this point home – your phone number MUST be registered before you can use this service.

Be aware that the text service may take longer than a normal 999 call and it should only be used as a last resort – for example, if calling 999 and talking out loud would put you in further danger.

Once registered, hopefully you will never find yourself in a situation in which you require emergency services – but just in case below are a few simple steps to alerting them to your problem and location silently.

The SMS to 999 must include which emergency service you need, a brief description of the emergency and your location.