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Silent Solutions

Posted by Steve at 14:00 on Monday 16th March 2020.

In this month’s article, we thought we would have a look at what we have realised is a little-known system to be used in an emergency situation, if you cannot communicate with the operator.  

This system is called Silent Solutions.

So, to begin with, let’s start with What happens when you call 999?

When you dial 999 your call is directed to a call centre and will be answered by BT operators. The operator will then ask you which service you require. Should the operator not have a service requested from you and anything suspicious is heard, the operator will re-route your call to a police call handler.

If you request a service, the handler will put you through to the service you have requested.

Calling 999 from a landline

It is less likely that a hoax or accident call will be made from a landline and therefore the Silent Solutions are not used on a call from a landline.

It is always best to speak to the operator should you be able to. If, however, a call is received from a landline and:

 There is no request for an emergency,

 The caller does not answer the questions,

 Only background noise can be heard, and the operator is unable to decide if an emergency service is required,

Then the operator will pass the call through to a police call handler, because the operator believes doubt exists.

Should you replace the handset before the operator can establish if doubt exists, the landline line may remain live for 45 seconds in case you should lift the handset again. Should the handset then be lifted the operator will put the call through to the police call handler should the operator be concerned for your safety.

Remember when a call is made from a landline,

information from where you are calling from should be automatically made available

to the call handler to assist in the response.

Calling 999 from a mobile

It is more likely that an accidental call will be made to 999 from a mobile, this is where the Silent Solutions are used.

When you call 999 and the BT operator has not been able to confirm which service you need or where there is doubt that the call is accidentally made, the operator will connect you through.

You will hear an automated police message which lasts about 20 seconds, it begins with ‘you are through to the police’. It will then ask you to press ‘55’ to put you through to the police call management. The BT operator will stay on the line waiting for you to press 55. Should you do this the call will be put through to the police, if you do not press 55 the call will be terminated.

Remember pressing 55 does not allow police to track your location.

Having been put through to the police call handler, they will try to get you to communicate with them by asking you simple yes or no questions. If you are unable to speak listen carefully to the call handler so that they can assist you to figure out the help you need and arrange for this.

What is Silent Solutions?

Silent Solutions is a system used to filter out the large number of accident and hoax calls that are received by 999 call handlers each year. The system also exists to help people who are unable to speak, but who genuinely need help from police, or other emergency services, although you will be put through to a police call handler.

Situations when you might need to use Silent Solutions

There are many situations when you may need to call 999 and access Silent Solutions. These include:

 In a domestic violence situation,

 In a terror attack situation,

 In any situation where your life is at risk should you speak,

 In any situation when you are physically unable to talk.

Silent Solutions

The Silent Solutions system has been in place since 2002. It is believed that most members of the public are unaware of the system or use it inappropriately.

It is thought that in the region of 5,000 calls out of 20,000 silent calls made daily are put through to this life-saving system.

In 2019, the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) launched a campaign to raise the awareness of this system, and even today when we discuss it in our training courses, the majority of our learners are unaware that it exists. The IOPC’s campaign was supported by the family of Kerry Power. Kerry was a 36-year-old woman when she was killed in Plymouth by her ex-partner. Kerry had dialled 999, and as she did not communicate with the BT operator, the call was put through to Silent Solutions, but sadly Kerry did not press 55 and therefore the call was terminated. This meant that Devon and Cornwall Police were not made aware of the call and her emergency.

Sadly, for Kerry who was strangled shortly after the call, an investigation into the police response found that she may have been given incorrect advice by a police officer previously as to when help would be sent.

It is believed wrongly that all silent calls are responded to, sadly this is not the case, purely due to the huge number of silent calls that are made to 999 each day.


Finally, this month we thought we would look at what to do if you are deaf, deafened, hard of hearing or speech-impaired people.

For this group of people there is a service called EmergencySMS. This service allows people to text the emergency services should there be an emergency.

Avon and Somerset Police describe an emergency as:

 When life is at risk,

 People are trapped or in trouble,

 A crime is taking place,

 Someone is hurt and needs medical attention, or

 There is a fire.

In these situations, it is possible to text 999.

What do you need to do in order to text 999?

In order to use the EmergencySMS service you need to text the word ‘register’ to 999 and then follow the instructions.

For more information on the EmergencySMS system, why not visit the designated website.

We hope that this month’s article has helped to raise awareness of the life-saving system that is Silent Solutions. Spread the word so that people know this service exists and it’s as simple as:

Dialling 999

Pressing 55!


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