A Facebook post shared almost 340,000 times claims that dialling 55 after ringing 999 will prompt emergency call handlers to dispatch police to you without the need to speak.
The post states: “If you’re in a situation where you can’t speak [for example] choking, heart attack, intruder, domestic violence, etc. Ring 999 when they answer, press 55. This tells them you need help but can’t speak. They will dispatch police to you! Worth knowing!”
This isn’t accurate.
As this guide by Thames Valley Police explains, dialling 55 does not automatically send the emergency services to your location and doesn’t allow the police to track your location.
If you call 999 you’re initially put through to a BT operator—they will direct your call to the relevant emergency service.
In some circumstances it may not be possible or safe for you to speak to the operator. Your call should still be transferred to the police by the operator if they hear suspicious noises, and you can also cough, tap the handset, dial 55 or make a noise to alert them that this is the case.
Otherwise, if the call is made from a mobile phone (not a landline), it will be forwarded to an automated system called “Silent Solution”. An automated voice asks the caller to press 55 if they need police assistance. Dialling 55 here will direct the call to a police call handler.
The call handler will try to find out what’s happening and where you are, even if you can’t speak.
Police will respond if the handler can identify who or where the caller is. If you are only able to say one thing, it’s advised to give your location.
If you must stay silent, the handler can use other methods to try and communicate.
As we have written before, dialling 55 at any point in the call (even before prompted) is likely to alert the operator that the caller needs to be put through to the police, as would doing something like tapping the handset to make a noise. Police call handlers are trained to get details from callers who cannot speak, and use methods like asking only yes or no questions.
You don’t need to dial 55 if calling from a landline. As this guide by the Metropolitan Police states, if you don’t speak or answer questions when you call 999, and the operator can only hear background noise, you’ll be transferred to the police.
If you replace the handset, the landline may remain connected for 45 seconds should you pick it up again. If that happens, the call handler will also forward the call to the police.
Unlike calls from a mobile, calling 999 from a landline will automatically give the police information about your location. An exact location from a mobile can’t always be pinpointed, especially in built-up areas.
We have investigated similar claims about The Silent Solution system before.
Image courtesy of West Midlands Police, licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.