Calling The Emergency Services - Fire and Threat

By : Business Owner
Published 12th September 2018 |
Read latest comment - 14th September 2018


Fire safety training and fire marshal courses are one of many courses I deliver.  Part of the fire safety course is to inform people of the significance of dialling 999 or 112.  So often I find that people simply do not know what actions to take should they be in a life threatening situation like a fire.  Below is a brief guide to the mechanics of what happens when you dial the emergency services.

Dialling 999 & 112 are exactly the same in the UK. You can use either one, and you will get the same service, with the same location details passed to emergency services regardless of which one you dial.

 The Fire Control Operator will ask you a number of questions:

1. What is the full address? (It is at this stage that fire engines may be mobilised)

2. What is on fire?

3. Is there anybody trapped?

4. Are there any nearby landmarks?

5. What telephone number are you dialling from?

6. You may be asked for your name and address.

Why they ask these questions?

1. it’s necessary to know the address where the emergency is. This information is entered into the computer to enable them to pinpoint exactly where fire engines need to attend.

2. Knowing what’s on fire, or what other emergency you have, to enable operators to decide what the response will be, for example: how many fire engines we will be needed.

3. Knowing if you and/or others are trapped inside a building enables operators to offer fire survival advice – This is only given if the persons trapped absolutely cannot get out.

4. Nearby landmarks, such as pubs, public buildings or telephone boxes are valuable sources of reference which enable crews to reach your location as quickly as possible.

5. They need to know the telephone number that you are calling from so that we can contact you again, if we need any further information from you. This information is not given to anyone other than emergency service personnel.

6. They may need to know your name and address. This can be used as a guide to where the fire has been seen from and to enable the crew to locate the original caller if there are any difficulties locating the incident.

It may seem as though you are being asked too many questions and your call is taking too long to deal with, but you shouldn’t worry, the fire engines are often mobilised quite quickly and whilst they are still talking to you. They can then gather other valuable information from you which will be passed on to the firefighters while they are en-route to the incident. This information may include things such as whereabouts in a building people are trapped or whether there are hazards such as an oil tank or gas cylinders near the fire.

Furthermore, did you know that 911 the American emergency telephone number works in the UK?  So, if you were to dial 911 it will be diverted to the 999 call centre and today’s smartphone technology is smart enough to understand that the user may be confused as to what country they are in, and will forward all the common emergency numbers to the right service - 999, 911, 112 etc.

What to do if you require the emergency services but cannot talk?

I have addressed the issue of fire throughout this article.  I would like to close by informing you of a service which nobody seems to be aware of and I hope they never have to use.

“55” Silent Solutions

If you find yourself in a situation which requires emergency services, but feel like you would place yourself and others with you in greater danger, should you speak - there is an answer.

As I have stated earlier in this article, when you call the emergency services, an operator asks which emergency service you require before rerouting the call to the police, ambulance service or fire brigade. If a 999/112/911 caller remains silent, the operator may ask them to cough or make another audible sound. If nothing is heard by the operator they will hang up as the emergency services simply don’t have the resources to investigate every call made to them during which no sound is made.

But, it may not be safe to make a noise in every situation – for example it could alert a potential attacker to your exact whereabouts or escalate a dangerous situation like domestic violence or burglary.  There’s a simple way of signalling that it’s a genuine emergency. You simply dial “55” if you cannot make an audible request for help. This procedure is called “Silent Solutions” and it was created so people can call the police in dangerous situations.

After you dial 999 and you’ve been unable to audibly signal to the operator, what you have to do is press “55”, the system will detect this and the call operator will be notified.  The call operator will then transfer the call through to the relevant Police Force area as there is an indication of genuine emergency.

So if you dial the emergency services and cannot speak or make a noise and you’re in danger, dial “55” otherwise your call will be terminated.

I hope this article has been helpful.

Bob Elsey


Pennine Training Services

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Gosh I really hope I am never in the situation that I can't speak to the operator, but if I am I now know what to do! Thank you Bob.

Many thanks,
Natalie - Your Local Girl Friday
Who is Natalie? Ltd

Wow I never knew about the 55 either! That's very useful! Thanks. 

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