March 5 2015

How To Communicate With 9-1-1 When You Can't Talk

By: Rich Hosford

If you need emergency services but for some reason cannot speak, you can still communicate with 9-1-1 dispatchers. 

The Massachusetts State Police posted on its Facebook page a reminder of the 9-1-1 system’s “Silent Call Procedure.” The system was set up in the 1990’s but does not have wide awareness. 

The Silent Call Procedure can be used by people who cannot speak due to a disability or a medical emergency. It can also be used if the caller cannot speak out loud due to safety reasons, such as during a domestic violence incident or home invasion. 

The state police posted this explanation on Facebook. 

“If a Massachusetts dispatcher answers a 911 call and it is silent, they will go through these steps to see if there is a response. You do not have to remember this procedure, they will ask you while on the telephone. The dispatchers screen will show them which numbers are being pressed.”

Here’s how it works: 

- First dial 9-1-1. 

Once the call is answered, indicate your need by pressing the following numbers on your telephone. 

- Press 1 if you need police

- Press 2 if you need the fire department

- Press 3 if you need an ambulance

If the 911 dispatcher asks you questions you can answer in the following way: 

- Press 4 for “Yes.” 

- Press 5 for “No.” 

The Silent Call Procedure works with both touch-tone phones and cell phones. 


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