While we might know when we need to call the police, we may not be able to talk once we get them on the line. A physical disability or dangerous situation like a domestic violence incident or a home invasion may make you unable to verbally communicate your emergency. Fortunately, there may be a way to tell 911 dispatchers you’re in trouble, without speaking aloud.
Massachusetts has a state-wide Silent Call Procedure for 911 calls that can mean the difference between life and death in some cases.
State Silent Call Procedures
Once you’ve dialed 9-1-1 and an operator has answered, you can press:
- 1 if you need police
- 2 if you need fire services
- 3 if you need an ambulance
If you’re asked a question during the call, you can press:
- 4 to respond yes
- 5 to respond no
Officials also want to remind callers that they don’t have to remember this procedure before dialing — dispatchers will ask you while on the telephone. If you don’t speak or press any buttons, or if you hang up, dispatchers will still send a police officer to your location for a welfare check, but the silent call system gives dispatchers more information up front, allowing them to dispatch emergency personnel more quickly.
Silent 911 call protocols may vary in other areas. Massachusetts was the only state-wide protocol we could find, but check with local law enforcement resources for silent call instructions in your area. If you can’t find silent 911 information (or cannot remember the protocol) some dispatchers have suggested placing the phone in a place where they can hear what is going on without you needing to speak, and they may be able to assess the situation based on background noise. Some states also allow you to text 911 for emergencies, although dispatchers may not have automatic access to your location.
And if it’s a non-emergency legal situation you need help with, an attorney is only a call or click away.