Silent 999 calls
There may be an occasion where someone needs to phone the police but they are unable to speak. They could be hiding as intruders are in their home or they could be trying to alert the police without raising suspicions of someone nearby who they are fearful of.
In this scenario a person might dial 999 but be unable to talk. There is a misconception that the police will always attend if the caller stays silent after calling the emergency number, but that’s not always true.
Whenever you dial 999 anywhere in the UK the call is answered by BT telephone operators. They will direct the call to the most appropriate emergency service based on the request of the caller. By default the call will be directed to the police if there is no request, no distress or no disorder heard.
But each day these operators receive silent calls. Some are accidental ‘pocket dials’ from mobile phones and others where toddlers accidentally dial 999.
BT's operators will attempt to confirm there is an emergency by asking the normal questions in order to receive a response. If suspicious, 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.
Although the call is silent we won’t be. The caller might not be able to talk but they can listen and we can still give advice or instructions.
We will do everything we can to assess the call. We listen to background noise and may ask the caller to tap the phone or make a discrete noise as we try to establish if there is a true emergency
We will not automatically have details of the caller’s location. But each call is assessed based on the information available. This could include any previous calls to the police from the caller, if we have this on record.
However a silent call will not automatically mean police will be sent to the location of the caller.
We understand that sometimes people can dial 999 by accident. In these scenarios we’d always ask you to stay on the line and explain what has happened. Simply hanging up could make us think there is still an emergency situation and be a waste of resources.