How To Dial 999 In An Emergency


Every year, literally thousands of 999 calls are made to the emergency services. However, the vast majority of callers do not understand the process for dialling 999 and the type of information required by the 999 emergency call handler. In this article we will teach you how to dial 999 and give you an idea of the system behind the entire process.

How to dial 999 in an emergency


In very basic terms the telephone number 999 is a lifeline people in the UK who are in distress. It is the world’s oldest emergency service call number and it was first rolled out in 1937 following a serious fire in London in which five women lost their lives at a surgery. The London Fire Brigade desperately tried to save them, but it was too late.

Although many 999 calls are made from home land line numbers, many of us are nowadays calling the service through our mobile phones. In fact, the first ever 999 call from a mobile was made back in 1986.

There are a number of different types of emergency call made by the general public, including genuine calls where the service is required, false alarm calls where no attendance is required, hoax calls and silent calls. Silent calls tally over several million each year where a caller either does not realise they have made a 999 call or they are unable to speak.

In total British Telecom receives a staggering 30 million 999 calls every year! There are standard procedures for dealing with these calls and the 999 call operators are very well trained in handling them.

How to dial 999 in an emergency

The first thing to point out is that this system should never be used unless it is a genuine emergency call. Once you have dialled 999 you will be transferred to a BT call operator who will ask you which service you require. You will need to inform them whether you would like to be put through to the police, fire, ambulance or coastguard. You will then be transferred to the appropriate call handler for the service you require.

How to dial 999 in an emergency


Once you are through to the relevant call handler they will ask you a series of questions about the incident or situation you wish to report. Types of questions they may ask include:

  • The phone number you are calling from
  • The nature of the incident you are reporting
  • The exact location of the incident (address) including postcode and landmarks or points of interest which will help the response team/crew to locate you
  • Who or what is involved

NOTE: As soon as the call operator has ascertained this information they will normally dispatch a suitable response whilst they obtain further information, such as:

  • If anyone is hurt, sick or injured: The casualties’ age, gender and any medical history;
  • Whether or not the casualty is awake/conscious, breathing and if there is any serious bleeding or chest pain; and some information about how the injury or incident occurred.

Remember: the 999 emergency system should never be abused and should only be used in a genuine emergency.