A campaign to raise awareness of ‘the silent solution’ which helps you call for emergency support when it is not safe to speak, launches today in a bid to promote a potentially life-saving service which many people still don’t know about, despite the fact it has been in operation since 2001.
Dialling the number 55, when prompted to do so, when phoning the emergency services on 999, or 112, alerts the call response handlers to the fact you can’t speak – but do need emergency help.
It is also hoped The Make Yourself Heard Campaign launched by the Independent Office for Police Conduct will debunk the myth that simply by calling 999 – especially from a mobile phone – police support will automatically be sent.
Whispering, coughing or tapping
In fact, in addition to dialling 999, if you cannot speak further action is required to confirm an emergency response is genuinely needed. These further actions include whispering, coughing, tapping the phone or dialling 55.
This ensures that rather than mistaking the silent call for a prank call, a misdial or an accidental call, the emergency call handlers know to get the police out to you immediately.
The extent of the problem
There are around 20,000 silent calls made in the UK each day. Many are made by children by mistake or activated by bags or pockets. Some are hoax or malicious calls.
According to a Metropolitan police spokesperson, only 0.9% of silent calls are intentional.
Emergency call handlers are tasked with working out which of these 20,000 silent calls are genuine pleas for help.
If call handlers believe there is a ‘negligible chance’ of it being an emergency, they can end the call.
When call handlers haven’t received a response after 30 seconds they redirect a quarter – around 5000 calls – to the automated service because they are unsure whether they are genuine or not.
When you are transferred to the automated service you will be asked to tap in 55 on the keypad, this signals to the call operator you are in danger, and you need police support sent to your location.
Yet of these 5000 redirected calls, a tiny percentage – just 50 calls – feature someone using the 55 instruction.
This suggests that although the silent solution was introduced by the Metropolitan Police in 2001, many people remain unaware of its existence.
A simple solution for times of stress
The silent solution aims to be simple so that people who are in extreme distress or fear will still be able to remember it.
These emergency situations where silence is imperative could include anything from an intruder in the house to a terrorist attack.
For example, in the case of Kerry Power, who back in 2013 dialled 999 but was unable to speak because she was in danger. Kerry was unaware that when she was put through to the automated service she also had to dial 55 to demonstrate her call was genuine and not simply a mistake. As a result of not knowing how to use the Silent Solution system her call was disconnected. Later that day, Kerry’s ex-partner called police to inform them he had strangled her.
The Make Yourself Heard Campaign is being supported by Kerry Power’s family, as well as backed by charities Women’s Aid and Welsh Women’s Aid, and the National Police Chiefs’ Council. The campaign has been launched this week to tie in with National Stalking Awareness Week which runs from 8-12th April.
Written by Emma Hammett for First Aid for Life
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