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Making the UK’s 999 system more accessible

Guest blog from Chris Channon, founder of Pegasus. On Monday Chris received an award from the Home Office for his work on Pegasus.

I have cerebral palsy and have lived independently in the community for over 30 years. During this time I’ve needed to call 999 on several occasions, often to report anti-social behaviour, but my calls were not always dealt with properly because I’m speech-impaired. I either couldn’t say what I needed to say or I was mistaken for a nuisance caller.

When I asked what was available to assist me to make these calls, the only options were to use TypeTalk or Textphone services. Neither of these were of any use because of my dexterity problems. So I came up with my own solution to the problem – Pegasus.

The Pegasus database

People who, like me, find it difficult to give this information using spoken word in a time of crisis can register their details on the Pegasus database. This can include names, addresses and other information which could be useful in an emergency.

They are then issued with a Personal Identification Number (PIN). To use the system, a person has to say Pegasus (or something that sounds similar) and their PIN. The emergency call operator will then immediately have access to the individual’s information and can quickly get on with dealing with the situation. The Pegasus PIN can also be shown or told to a police officer or other emergency service personnel when help is needed person to person. Pegasus is available for use in this way by those who are unable to use a phone.

The information on the database is not used for any other purpose other than assisting the individual.

Pegasus in Nottinghamshire

I started working with Nottinghamshire Police in 2005 on Pegasus and the scheme went live in April 2008. We now have over 500 people registered in Nottinghamshire and the control room receives about 15 calls a month from people using Pegasus reporting crimes and incidents.

Users include people with learning and physical disabilities, deaf people – who use it via the textphone service, those with mental health issues and elderly people.

We conducted a survey of users and 80% reported that Pegasus improved their confidence in calling 999. They also shared their thoughts on the system:

“I was impressed with how quickly somebody arrived, I found it easy to contact and report my incident.”

“Since being a member of Pegasus I now feel someone is at my hand when I need help. I am in my late eighties, almost housebound; Pegasus is always there – thank you.”

Plans for the future

Pegasus is now in use by:

There are two other police forces looking at the possibility of adopting Pegasus in their areas.

If you wish to register with Pegasus that’s currently operating in your area, please contact – or get someone to do so on your behalf – your local police force.

If Pegasus is NOT running in your area, ask – or get someone to ask on your behalf – your local police force what they intend to do to make their 999 call system more accessible.

It has been without doubt the most difficult thing I’ve done in my life and it’s only now after almost 10 years of work that people are beginning to see its value.

Watch a report on ITV News about Pegasus.