The police took more than 55,000 111 phone calls last year where there was silence on the end of the line.
Many of them were mistakes and sometimes the caller couldn’t talk because they were drunk or on drugs. But in a small number of cases, the caller was too frightened to speak out loud.
In those cases, the operator will glean information by asking callers to push a button in response to their questions.
Police say it can be difficult to determine if it’s a genuine emergency and operators will take their cue from what they can hear in the background. But police say they always err on the side of caution and will send a crew if they are in doubt.
Of the 55,506 silent calls last year, 22,000 were attended and 1000 offenders were arrested,
Before a call goes through to police, it will be picked up by a Spark operator. Last year, they weeded out 260,000 pocket dials. The central communications operational manager Jason Greenhalg says that takes up a lot of resources and means operators can’t deal with real emergencies.
He says 111 pocket dials have worsened with the advent of smartphones and advises people to keep them locked.