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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.

BT’s operators will attempt to confirm there is an emergency by asking the normal questions in order to receive a response. If suspicious noises are heard, the call will be put through to the police or the caller will be asked to press/dial 55 which will also route the call to the police.

IMPORTANT: The Police will NOT automatically have details of the location (particularly for mobile phones) so they can’t automatically send police to you.

The Police’s Customer Contact Centre Agents are very skilled in seeking information from callers who may not be in a position to communicate effectively, so for example tapping the handset in a way that answers the call handler’s questions can be utilised, or skilled use of closed questions (yes or no) enables the call handler to effectively get the most suitable response to the call.

The police Customer Contact Centre Agent will do everything they can to assess the call, they will NOT always send a patrol – so it’s important that you provide any information you can. Each call is assessed based on the available information, this will include any previous calls to the police, but this still doesn’t mean they know where you are!


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.