In an emergency the first thing people usually think to do is dial 999. Since 1937, the service has provided 24/7 access to the emergency services for those in need of urgent assistance.
However, with upwards of 560,000 calls a week according to British Telecom, there is a huge demand on the service. At its busiest time, which is unsurprisingly around midnight on Friday and Saturday nights, handlers can expect 5,000 incoming calls an hour. Over the Christmas period this increases with around 9,000 calls received in the early hours of New Year’s Day.
Although the majority of calls are genuine, an estimated 35% don’t involve actual requests for help. These include accidental calls, deliberate hoaxes or children playing with phones. We’ve also all heard the tales of time-wasting calls, which the emergency services often publicise as a reminder to the public that 999 should not be abused.
If a situation doesn’t require an immediate emergency response and there’s no threat to life, then there are a number of alternatives depending on what help you require.
Use this to:
Examples of when to dial 101:
NHS 111 is a dedicated non-emergency medical helpline which provides support to help take the pressure off the 999 system and hospital A&E departments. By dialling 111, highly trained advisors, supported by healthcare professionals can help to assess your symptoms over the phone and advise on the best medical care.
Call 111 when:
Although 999 is used in several places around the world such as Poland, Hong Kong and Singapore, most countries use a different emergency number. In fact some even have separate numbers for the police, ambulance and fire services which can confuse visitors.
For this reason an international emergency number was introduced, dialling 112 on a mobile works the same as 999 anywhere in the world. To overcome language barriers, countries in the EU provide a translation service.
In some situations dialling 999 may not be an option, for example if you’re in danger but unable to speak as this could give away your whereabouts to an attacker. Personal alarms which are linked to a monitoring centre can be a discreet alternative in this scenario, as they allow Controllers to listen in and seek assistance on a user’s behalf if required.
These would be recommended in situations where risk is regularly encountered for example if a person is working alone. Monitored lone worker alarms have the added advantage that information on who’s calling and where they are will already be known to Controllers which can save vital time.