Australians are taught from a young age to call 000 in case of an emergency, but there’s one problem.
What happens if that emergency is something sinister – for example, you’re hiding from intruders and are genuinely scared for your safety?
You can’t exactly pick up the phone and confidently ask for the police to come around and sort things out. So what do you do if you have to call 000 but cannot say anything for fear of imminent danger?
According to the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA), 000 employs a Caller No Response (CNR) initiative in the event of a caller being unable to voice their concerns over the phone.
The operator will initially ask a caller if their emergency requires police, fire or ambulance services. If the caller does not answer, they are put through to the interactive voice response (IVR) unit, where they are once again asked if they require emergency assistance, but instructed to dial ’55’ rather than vocalise their concern.
If, after three prompts, the caller does not dial ’55’, then the call is cancelled. However, if ’55’ is entered, the call will be connected to the police.
By this stage, if the caller is still maintaining their silence, the cops “will attempt to call back and might also dispatch a patrol car to the caller’s address”.
As such, ACMA explains how important it is “that your carriage service provider has your most up-to-date address details for your phone services”, as that’s the address the police car will be dispatched to.
The protocol is known as ‘silent solutions’ in the UK, where it was recently called into question after a woman – who was too scared to speak on the phone after calling for police assistance – was murdered in her home.
Responding to criticism of the system, Deputy Chief Constable Alan Todd, the National Police Chiefs’ Council’s lead for national contact management explained to The Telegraph that the system “is only effective if people understand how it works”.
“We are now considering how we can best educate the public and police officers about the system to ensure that those at risk of harm get the help they need,” Todd said.