Domestic violence charities are backing a campaign to raise awareness of the Silent Solution system, which allows you to alert police without speaking.
It was probably drummed into you from a young age: if you’re in danger, call 999. But in some situations, making noise by speaking on the phone could put you at greater risk.
Now, the UK police watchdog has launched a campaign to raise awareness of a system that allows people to contact police or other emergency services in situations when it might not be safe to make a sound.
The Independent Office for Police Conduct has produced a how-to guide for its Silent Solution system, after becoming concerned that many people believe that a silent 999 call will alert emergency services.
If you’re in a situation where it seems too dangerous to speak to a 999 phone operator, the guide advises you to cough or tap your phone handset.
However, in some situations, it might be too risky for the caller to make any noise at all – for example, if they are hiding from an attacker.
In these situations, the police request that callers simply dial 55, to alert the operator to the fact that no, they haven’t just called 999 accidentally – and yes, they do need urgent help.
“It is always best to actually speak to a police call handler if you can, even if by whispering,” said the IOPC’s regional director Catrin Evans.
“But if you are putting yourself or someone else in danger by making a sound, there is something you can do.”
The awareness-raising Make Yourself Heard campaign is being backed by domestic abuse charities Women’s Aid and Welsh Women’s Aid following the death of 36-year-old Kerry Power, who was murdered by her violent ex-partner and stalker.
Power called police after David Wilder let himself into her home in Plymouth in 2013. Her family say she had been told that making a silent 999 call would be enough to alert police to the fact she was in danger. However, because Power did not press 55, her call was not transferred to Devon and Cornwall police. Wilder strangled her shortly after, and was jailed for life in 2014.
While the Silent Solution system has been in place since 2002, Power’s murder highlighted the fact that not enough people were aware of it. In 2016, deputy chief constable Alan Todd, the National Police Chiefs’ Council’s lead for national contact management, acknowledged that “the system is only effective if people understand how it works”.
Lucy Hadley, from Women’s Aid, said: “We need to look at all ways we can raise awareness and make the system work better for the people it’s designed for, which are people in extreme distress and fear, and might not necessarily remember everything… on a poster or advertising campaign.”
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