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Is 999 stretched too thin? How businesses can help keep people safe

It’s a number we all know by heart but one that we hope we’ll never have to dial. But when we do, could the increased strain on our emergency services be impacting our confidence in those on the other end of the phone?

A survey of more than 2,000 members of the British public conducted by the team here at Expert Security UK, has found that more than half of us (54%) worry that the 999 service wouldn’t be enough to keep them safe in an emergency situation. 

The results were similar across all genders and demographics with barely any fluctuations, showing that this is a universal concern in the UK. Those over the age of 55 and women were more likely to feel unsafe – with 56% and 55% saying so respectively – compared to younger people (aged 18 to 34) and men.

The 999 number and emergency services have come under intense pressure over the past few years, with police, ambulance and the fire department suffering immense cuts in their funding. No doubt this is what has led to a drop in confidence, simply because there aren’t enough people to fill the demand.

The comments entered in the survey back this up:

  • “Seriously underfunded.”
  • “Emergency services do their absolute best despite the cuts, more funding needed.”
  • “We need to keep police on beat and fire stations open.”
  • “Due to government cuts they are short staffed and woefully underfunded.”
  • “Yes, if the government hadn’t made so many cutbacks. More people less resources, it’s stupid.”
  • “Police are understaffed.”

With those results in mind, and the comments regarding underfunding showing the mindset we all should have, Expert Security UK is urging businesses across the country to do what they can to keep people safe on their own premises, and to relieve the pressure on our emergency services.

Here’s what they recommend…

  1. Only dial when you need

This one should go without saying, but only call for emergency assistance if it is really needed. Of course, if someone is seriously injured or if a crime has been committed then absolutely pick up the phone, but could the situation be handled without an ambulance or police officer attending? Don’t hesitate if time is critical, though.

Did you know that there is also another number you could ring? 101 is the non-emergency police line where you don’t need an urgent emergency response. Some examples of when to ring 101 include:

  • Property has been damaged
  • Your car has been stolen
  • You suspect drug use
  • There has been a minor traffic accident
  1. Have people onsite

Many people feel much safer walking the streets if they know police are nearby to help, particularly at night, but could you consider hiring onsite security personnel to provide some of that reassurance? If you’re just one business of many in a building consider approaching your fellow occupants to pitch in on the cost. Knowing a person of authority, such as a security guard, is there to help after hours can really put people at ease. They can then make the decision of whether a 999 call is necessary.

  1. Set up cameras

Cameras are a fantastic deterrent for anyone who may be thinking of committing a crime. While they aren’t a guaranteed form of protection, they will often make anyone think twice before they take action. And if it doesn’t act as a deterrent, any misdeeds caught on camera can be handed over to the police to help with investigations.

  1. Secure the premises

Helping people feel safe on the premises of your business is one of the most important steps you can take, and there’s plenty that you can do. We’d recommend ensuring that your car park, if you have one, is secure and protected from intruders and then turn your attention to the building itself and ensuring that no one other than authorised personnel can enter. Some of your options range from barriers, gates and bollards all the way to CCTV installation and access control systems.

  1. Educate staff

While employers do not have any control on how their staff behaves outside of the office, they can still take steps to urge them to be as safe as possible. This can include running workshops and seminars on personal safety, encouraging them to practice vehicle safety e.g. keeping valuables out of sight and locking doors, and even running practical sessions on self-defence or paying for staff to attend a first aid course to learn how to deal with minor injuries.

In our time of need, 999 will be the first number we reach for. But with so many of us worried that our emergency services are stretched too thin, let’s all step up and do our part to keep one another safe when it matters the most.