If you need urgent help from the Police on 999 but dare not speak

Silent Solution

Occasions arise when a person in physical danger is able to dial 999 but dare not speak for fear of being overheard by their assailant. The emergency operators regularly find themselves answering ‘silent calls’ and have to decide whether a call is simply a mistake, a hoax or a genuine call for help.


All 999 calls go to call centres and are answered by BT operators who ask which service you need. If no service is requested but anything suspicious is heard on the line, the BT operator will connect you directly to a police call handler.


It is always best to speak to the operator if you can, even by whispering. You may also be asked to cough or tap the keys on your phone in response to questions.

If making a sound would put you or someone else in danger and the BT operator cannot decide whether an emergency service is needed, your call will be transferred to the Silent Solution system.

Silent Solution is a police system used to filter out large numbers of accidental or hoax 999 calls. It also exists to help people who are unable to speak but genuinely need police assistance.

You will hear an automated police message, that lasts for twenty seconds and begins with ‘You are through to the police’. It will ask you to press 55 to be put through to police call management. The BT operator will remain on the line and listen. If you press 55, they will be notified and transfer the call to the police. If you do not press 55, the call will be terminated.


When transferred to your local police force, the police call handler will attempt to communicate with you by asking simple yes or no questions. If you are not able to speak, listen carefully to the questions and instructions from the call handler so that they can assess your call and arrange help if needed.

Pressing 55 does not allow the police to track your location.


Because it is less likely for 999 calls to be made accidently from landlines, the Silent Solution system is not used.

If, when an emergency call on a landline is received:

  • there is no request for an emergency
  • the caller does not answer questions
  • only background noise can be heard and BT operators cannot decide whether an emergency service is needed,

then you will be connected to a police call handler as doubt exists.

If you replace the handset, the landline may remain connected for forty-five seconds in case you pick it up again.

If you pick up again during this forty-five seconds and the BT operator is concerned for your safety, the call will be connected to the police.

When 999 calls are made from landlines, information about where you are calling from should be  available automatically to the call handlers.

Information supplied by the Independent Office for Police Conduct in conjunction with

The National Police Chiefs' Council and Women's Aid