Make Yourself Heard – what you need to know about silent 999 calls

How many of us were taught and believed that if you made a silent 999 call then the Police would automatically respond? A campaign was launched this month to debunk this myth and ensure the general public knows what to expect and do if they are too frightened to speak but need assistance urgently.

The Make Yourself Heard campaign led by the Independent Office for Police Conduct and backed by Women’s Aid and the National Police Chiefs Council is raising awareness of the Silent Solution, a system put in place to filter out accidental or hoax 999 calls from mobile phones, which prompts the caller to make yourself heard through coughing, tapping the handset or pressing 55. Their advice is to always Make Yourself Heard by speaking to the call handler even if by whispering or alternatively callers are asked to tap the keys or cough. However we know all too well that for survivors of domestic abuse it is not always possible to do so and where this is the case calls are put through to the Silent Solution System which plays an automated message and asks caller to press 55, this is the important part as if the caller does not press 55 then the call will be terminated. If Kerry Power who was murdered by her ex-partner in 2013 had been told to press 55 there may have been another response however the call was terminated and raising awareness of the this method of alerting police could save a life.  What is also important to know is that pressing 55 does not allow the police to track your location.

The system could save a life not only for those experiencing abuse, but in many other circumstances… I recall a recent news story about a call handler who was able to get vital information from someone in a medical emergency by recognising they were a genuine caller and seeking positive responses to their questions through tapping.

This is such a vital and important system to be aware of yet how many of us have heard of it? Would know to respond this way? And in times of distress and fear remember to do this? It all hinges on awareness raising, education and key messages that we all need to hear but hopefully may never need to use. I hope to see this poster campaign in prominent positions, talked about on social media, shared among our family, friends and community, forming part of any safety advice and education and having a positive impact in ensuring those who cannot speak out during a 999 call can still be heard.

Michelle O’Rourke