In an emergency, one of the first things most people would think to do is dial 999 – but what if this wasn’t an option as it could alert an attacker or give away your whereabouts?
Luckily there are several solutions to this particular problem. Firstly, if you are able to dial 999, but unable to speak, there is a so-called ‘silent solution’ that allows you to let emergency service operators know that you require assistance by pressing 5 twice when prompted.
The usual procedure when you dial 999 is that an operator will answer and ask which service you require. They will also ask you to tap your handset screen or cough if you cannot speak. If no sound can be heard, the operator will usually suspect that you have accidentally misdialled and terminate the call.
However, if there are background noises and voices, the call will be connected to an automated police voice response system. The caller will be asked to press 55 if help is required, which if dialled correctly will connect them through to a police emergency control room.
Every year the emergency services receive several hundred thousand silent 999 calls, which is the reason why the silent solution protocol was implemented in 2001 to filter these accidental calls. However, this service is not widely known by the general public.
Last year the IPCC called for a review of the silent solution protocol after the tragic case of Kerry Power, a domestic abuse victim who was murdered by her ex-partner David Wilder in December 2013. Kerry had been told by a police officer to dial 999 and stay silent if she felt threatened, but it is understood the full procedure was not properly explained. When Wilder let himself into her home using a key he had cut, Kerry tried to call for help by dialling 999 and remained silent instead of following the correct procedure, therefore no action was taken.
Alan Todd, Deputy Chief Constable of the National Police Chiefs’ Council’s lead for national contact management, said: “our steering group has reviewed the system and concluded that it is effective at enabling people who are unable to speak to contact the police while filtering out the huge volumes of accidental 999 calls made every day.
“However, the system is only effective if people understand how it works. We are now considering how we can best educate the public and police officers about the system to ensure that those at risk of harm get the help they need.”
The silent solution isn’t the only subtle method you can use to get help in an emergency. There are now a number of solutions including personal safety alarms and apps that allow you to do this at the press of a button.
Devices such as Skyguard’s MySOS and smartphone apps provide a two-way audio connection when the alarm is activated, so that trained Controllers can listen in and automatically summon the emergency services via their direct link to Police Control Rooms.
Additionally, specific duress codes can be set beforehand so that if the user says a code word or phrase, this will notify the Controller of the emergency without alerting an aggressor.
The exact location of the device can also be automatically or manually transmitted using GPS enabling the whereabouts of the user to be viewed by Controllers and supplied to the police.
With domestic violence cases on the rise, so is the demand for discreet ways for people to seek help. Skyguard are trusted by over half of the UK’s police forces to protect vulnerable people, so we can advise on the best personal safety options to help keep you safe even in the most difficult of circumstances.