In the immediate aftermath of the devastating Manchester Arena attack, Theresa May raised the terror threat level to ‘critical’, warning that another incident could be imminent.
Officials at M15 have stressed that an increased threat level does not mean that members of the public have to do anything other than remain vigilant. And crucially, events like the Manchester bombing are still relatively rare. Only two terrorist atrocities have taken place in the UK over the last decade, despite the official terror threat level being “severe” for almost all of that time.
However, it’s always important to be aware of how best to react in a dangerous situation – whether that be a terrorist incident or a burglary.
Metro has published details of the British police’s Silent Solutions procedure, which allows people to call police or other emergency services in situations when it might not be safe to make any noise.
When a caller dials 999, an operator will ask which emergency service they require: police, ambulance service or fire brigade.
If the caller doesn’t say anything, the operator will ask them to cough or make another noise, like a tap on the handset.
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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.
In November 2016, a primary school worker from Plymouth was murdered by her ex-boyfriend after she made a silent 999 call. Kerry Power, 36, was too afraid to speak after David Wilder broke into her home – but was not aware of the Silent Solutions procedure, and didn’t press 55. As a result, her call was not transferred to police.
After Power was killed, a police spokesman said that emergency services do not have the resources to investigate every silent 999 call, in part because so many of them are hoaxes or accidental dials. For that reason, it’s crucial that awareness is spread about the existence of the Silent Solutions procedure.
“Please do not think that just because you dial 999 that police will attend,” they said. “We totally understand that sometimes people are unable or too afraid to talk, however it must be clear that we will not routinely attend a silent 999 call.
“There must be some indication that the call has not been mis-dialled.”
Spread the word.
Images: iStock, Rex Features