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Contacting the police in an emergency

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Use the 999 emergency number when

  • Life is in danger or someone is seriously injured
  • Someone is using violence or there is an immediate threat of violence
  • A crime is in progress or an offender has just been disturbed at the scene
  • Serious damage is being or could be caused to property
  • There is a road traffic collision in which someone is hurt or there is a danger to other road users
  • An immediate police response is necessary.

In all other circumstances, including to report a crime that has already happened, you should use our non-emergency number 101.

You should call 999 if you need our help immediately in a genuine emergency.

What happens when you dial 999?

You will speak to an operator who will ask you to confirm which emergency service you need - police, fire or ambulance. If you ask for police, your call will be connected to a customer service advisor in our control room at our headquarters in Arnold, Nottingham. The customer service advisor will ask for your name and address and details of what has happened.

This will take time but it's important to get as much information from you as possible so we can determine the type and level of police response required. Please be co-operative with the customer service advisor and provide as much detail as you can.

Speak as calmly and clearly as you can to avoid mistakes. If you have a disability or impairment you can become a member of the Pegasus scheme so the advisor will be able to access your personal details quickly just from your Pegasus PIN number. While you're speaking, the customer service advisor will input the details into a police system so that the relevant officers or specialist staff can be deployed to help you.

The advisor will be taking action during the conversation. In emergencies, the police may arrive while you are still on the phone to the control room. Your call will be graded according to urgency. The most urgent calls will receive an immediate response.

The advisor will explain to you what is happening and why. Don't put the phone down until the customer service advisor tells you to as they may need more information from you. Your call will be recorded for training, monitoring and evidential purposes.

How long will you take to get to me?

If your call is an emergency, we aim to be with you within 15 minutes if you live in an urban area and 20 minutes if you live in a rural area.

If it's less urgent, we aim to be with you within an hour.

If it's not necessary to send an officer to you straight away, we may arrange for a local beat officer to visit you or arrange for a scheduled appointment at a police station on a date and at a time to suit you.

Alternatively, you might not need a visit at all and you may be kept updated by phone, text or email.

If we're not the right service to deal with your call, our customer service advisors will give you contact details for another agency that can help, such as your local council, the RSPCA or Trading Standards.

Does it cost anything to call 999?

999 calls are free from any phone including home phones, pay phones, card phones and mobile phones. On mobile phones press 999 on the keypad and then the ‘call’ button – you can do this if the keypad is locked (this is a standard feature on all mobile phones) and even if there is no credit on the phone.

How to call 999 when it's not safe to speak

There may be circumstances where you need to request immediate help from police officers, but risk putting yourself or others in more danger by speaking.

There could be any number of reasons for this, for example alerting someone to your location or to the fact that you’re dialling 999.

When you call 999, the operator will ask which service you require. If you don’t respond, you are then connected to the silent solutions service hosted by the Metropolitan Police where you are prompted to tap the handset, cough or make a noise. You’ll then be given the option to press 55 to be put through to your local police force as an emergency caller.

If you don’t respond to any of these options, unfortunately we’ll have to terminate the call to allow us to deal with other incoming calls. This is because, sadly, we do receive hoax calls alongside misdials and the occasional call from an inquisitive toddler.

The process is designed to allow people to inform call handlers that their call is a genuine emergency, without having to put themselves in danger. This works with the current threat advice of RUN, HIDE, TELL where you are advised to put your phone on silent and may be unable to speak to the police.

We won’t automatically have exact details of your location once you’ve been put through to our Control Room but we’ll do our best to assess the situation and find out where you are. We might need to ask questions that require you to tap the screen to respond. Once we’ve got enough information, we can assess the call and respond accordingly.    

 

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