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Emergency SMS text service

We all know that should we ever urgently need the police, or any of the emergency services, we can pick up the phone and call 999. But would you know how to summon help if you experience hearing or speech loss? Help need only be a text away.

The emergency SMS text message service is a national service, which is simple and straight forward to set up and enables people who cannot make voice calls to request emergency assistance from police, fire and rescue, ambulance and coastguard.  

The service is free and available to all. However you must register your mobile with the service, before you can use it.

To access the service,

  • Text the word ‘register’ to 999.
  • You’ll then receive an automatic text response which contains some information about the service. It’s advisable to read the information
  • Once you are ready to proceed with the registration, reply to the message by texting ‘Yes’ back.
  • You’ll then receive a ‘success’ response, confirming that your mobile is now registered.

Remember though, if you change your phone number, you’ll need to register that new number with the service again. And if you ever need to test you are still registered for the scheme – just text ‘register’ to 999 and you’ll be sent a confirmation message – there is no need to send a test message.

If you attempt to register, but don’t receive the ‘success’ text, it’s an idea to check with your mobile provider, to make sure they support the emergency SMS service.

The service is available to all, irrespective of whether they can make voice calls or not. However, if you are not hearing or speech impaired, it’s advisable to still make a voice call 999 in an emergency, as the response is slightly quicker.

The emergency SMS service should be used to contact police when there is a genuine emergency, such as a threat to life or if a crime is taking place right now. To alert police to an incident you should start your text with the service you need and be as precise as possible, including details of the nature of the incident, the name of the road and town and, if possible, more details like the house number or nearby landmarks or main roads. The better your information, the faster the emergency services will be able to send help.

A good example of an emergency message is: Police. Man breaking into a car outside of Flicks cinema, Haxby Road, York YO32

Send the text to 999. The relevant emergency service will reply to you and confirm receipt of your text or request more information as necessary. At busy times it may take a few minutes until a reply is sent, so please don’t assume that your message has been delivered until you receive a reply text.

Speaking about the emergency SMS service, Force Control Room Manager Jane Larkin said:

“The majority of the calls that come into the Force Control Room are made via a spoken telephone call. However, since the emergency SMS service launched, we have answered a number calls for assistance via this system.

“The message arrives with us via a relay system, where the information is securely and confidentially passed between ourselves and the caller. This allows us to gather all the information we need to determine what assistance is required by the caller and dispatch the relevant police response.

“We are fully committed to ensuring that contacting the police is quick, easy and convenient for everyone, so this system is a vital life line to those who may find making voice calls difficult. It’s well worth signing up for the service, so you are already registered if an emergency should ever happen.”