Claim: Massachusetts offers a “Silent 911 Call” procedure for those who cannot speak openly to emergency dispatchers.
Example: [Collected via Facebook, March 2015]
Is this true, and if yes do any other states use it?
The Silent Call Procedure
The Silent Call procedure is a unique program in the Massachusetts
Enhanced 9-1-1 system that allows a caller who is unable to verbally
communicate their emergency over the phone to receive the appropriate
If you need to call 9-1-1 and you are unable to speak for any reason, such
as a physical disability, domestic violence or home invasion, follow these
simple steps using a touch tone wireline telephone or a cell phone:
FIRST DIAL 9-1-1
Once the call is answered, indicate your need by pressing the appropriate
number on your telephone.
IF YOU NEED POLICE PRESS 1
IF YOU NEED FIRE PRESS 2
IF YOU NEED AN AMBULANCE PRESS 3
The 9-1-1 Dispatcher may ask questions that require yes or no answers.
PRESS 4 FOR YES
PRESS 5 FOR NO
Origins: In March 2015, the Massachusetts State 911 Department and the Executive Office of Public Safety and Security called attention to a little-known, decades-old feature of the state’s 911 system when they posted an infographic about it to social media:
The 911 Silent Call Procedure, which many state residents were unaware had been implemented back in the 1990s, was created to facilitate communication with emergency responders by callers who could not speak with them due to factors such as physical disability, injury, an impairing medical condition (e.g., choking), or the nearby presence of criminals who might seek to terminate the call and/or harm the caller if they became aware their victim was summoning help:
Did you know in the 1990’s, State 911 established a “Silent Call” Procedure?
Here is how it works: 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.
The procedure, which can be utilized with touch tone landlines and cell phones, enables a caller to “talk” to a dispatcher using a telephone keypad. The dispatcher will ask a caller who doesn’t respond verbally to press a key corresponding to the nature of the needed service (1 for police, 2 for fire, and 3 for an ambulance) and will guide that caller through a series of yes/no questions that can also be answered through the keypad (4 for “yes” and 5 for “no”):
Dispatchers are trained to ask, “What is your emergency?” twice, and to ensure the caller is not using TTY for people who are hard-of-hearing, before initiating the silent call procedure.
“(You) try to identify if somebody’s at the other end, and then you go into the
Massachusetts implemented the silent call procedure close to 20 years ago, said Monna Wallace, program director at the
“We’ve done as much public education as possible, but social media has taken it to another level,” Wallace [said]. “It has been used with success.”
In one case, a young girl — unable to speak because intruders were inside her
If a caller neither speaks nor presses buttons, or if a caller hangs up, the dispatcher will send a police officer to the location for a welfare check.
But the silent call system in Massachusetts gives dispatchers more information up front, allowing them to dispatch emergency medical technicians and firefighters more quickly, officials said.
Although similar silent 911 procedures may be implemented elsewhere in the U.S. on a local basis, we could not find any indication that such a system has been implemented on a state-wide basis outside of Massachusetts.
Last updated: 14 March 2014
Flamisch, Steve. Need Help, But Can’t Speak?” WNYT.com. 4 March 2015. Steele, Brian. “911 Silent Call Procedure Can Get You the Help You Need.” MassLive.com. 4 March 2015.