Emergency SMS text service
The Police Service of Northern Ireland operates an emergency SMS text message registration scheme to assist those with certain disabilities to be able to contact them in an emergency.
This service also enables police to pass on requests for assistance to the Fire and Ambulance services as well.
It has to be emphasised that this is a service for EMERGENCY contact with the three emergency services.
This service is only available to pre-registered users who have completed an application form.
SMS stands for short messaging service - a service provided by mobile networks that enables users to send a text message to another mobile user.
No mobile phone company can guarantee that all messages will arrive immediately after they are sent. Any service such as this, can and will be affected by different network conditions. Therefore we cannot guarantee that your message will be received immediately, but we shall endeavour to make the service as effective as possible. If you have not received a text acknowledgement, please make alternative arrangements depending on the degree of urgency of your call.
Only use text messaging as a last resort and only in an Emergency.
Why does the polices have a text messaging service?
It is not possible to send a text message to 999. To get round this problem, the PSNI has created a number specifically for text messages which will assist people with hearing or speech difficulties to contact the police in an emergency.
Who can use this service?
The service is ONLY available to people with a disability that makes it difficult for them to contact the emergency services using the 999 emergency number. You must be registered to use it in advance. The service is NOT available to anyone else.
How does the service work?
You must register in advance by completing an application form. Then, in the event of an emergency, you can text the police directly.
Once you have been registered your details will be passed directly to one of our Disability Link Officers.
The Disability Link Officer will confirm your registration details and quality assure the service provided to you through the SMS service.
How the system operates
If you are not registered for the system you will get the following message:
"You are not yet in the system. Please use Minicom / fax / others to ask for help. To join the system, please ask the BDA for a form or go to the PSNI website."
The first time you register an automated response will say:
"Your personal details are in the system now. Please use this number *****(SMS) from now on for emergency only."
When you send a message requesting an emergency service an automated response will say:
"Received your message. We will contact you asap. Thank you."
When the controller has read your message, you will receive a second message from Police stating:
"We are sorting out your message and will let you know soon as possible."
A third message will arrive on your phone from Police outlining what they are doing about your call. This message will be a human response to the request.
What sort of information will the police need?
To enable us to respond adequately, it is crucial that the user provides the following information:
- Details of where you are (e.g., street name, recognised place, feature, church, library, museum, shop name, company name etc)
- The location of any incident which has taken place
- Why and which service you need (give brief details of what has happened)
What if I need the fire or ambulance service, not the police?
If you send a text message using the special number, your message will be passed to the main police control centre in Belfast. If you need the fire or ambulance service, our operators will relay the message to the appropriate service on your behalf and their operators will deal with your call as appropriate. Please note the only people who will text you will be the Police.
How will I know if the police have received my call?
An automatic acknowledgement will be sent back to your mobile phone, confirming a message has been logged with the appropriate emergency service.
Why do I need to register to use this service?
By asking people to register to use this service, we hope it will help to reduce the risk of false or hoax calls. This should allow us more time to deal with genuine calls for assistance in the most appropriate and effective manner.
What happens if I don’t register? Will the police still receive my text message?
No. The service is only available to callers registered on a database. If you have not registered in advance, your call will not be accepted and your message will not reach the Police.
Please allow 21 days for your registration to take effect. During this period, you will not be able to use the service.
Can I use the service for sending non-urgent messages to the police?
No, the service is strictly for emergency messages.
What if I don’t want to use text messaging can I still use other methods of contacting the police?
Yes. Minicom and Typetalk systems are still available and can be accessed in the normal way.
Make it work
The success of this service depends on the accuracy and detail of the information you provide. It is extremely important that you follow the instructions carefully, especially in relation to giving your exact location.
You can only be certain that your message has been received if you receive an acknowledgement.
Unfortunately, we cannot guarantee that your message will be received immediately, but we will endeavour to make the service as effective as possible.
If your message is passed to other services such as fire or ambulance, the PSNI cannot be held responsible for any acts or omissions arising once your message has been forwarded.
Application forms are also available from local deaf centres and associations.