24th International Congress of History of Science, Technology and Medicine

Safety and emergency advice

On the whole, visitors to Manchester have a safe and rewarding experience, and naturally we very much hope this will be true for every one of our Congress visitors. Here, though, are some points to be aware of, and indications of what to do if you’re unlucky enough to have problems during your stay.

Personal safety

Emergency call

Non-emergency police and medical requests

Personal safety

Visitors from other parts of the UK will occasionally tell half-remembered stories about ‘dangerous parts of Manchester’, usually based on media accounts of gang incidents from the 1990s. In fact, ordinary visitors going about their business are unlikely to be threatened wherever they go. As in any city, however, you should exercise reasonable caution about wandering around unfamiliar areas where you don’t know your way, particularly after dark, and make sure you have a way to call for help (see below).

The biggest threat to most new international arrivals’ safety is not robbery or violence but looking the wrong way when crossing the road, on the unconscious assumption that cars drive on the right. The situation takes a couple of days to get used to, and Oxford Road is relatively busy, so be careful.

Note that there is no offence of jaywalking in the UK (because there are few intersections as commonly understood). Pedestrians will routinely cross a quiet road wherever they wish. It is generally taken to be the pedestrian’s responsibility to plan this carefully; drivers will not be prepared to slow down or stop. Signal lights, however, are generally respected, as are zebra crossings (black-and-white stripes giving the pedestrian right of way).

Another transport-related risk is hiring a minicab from the street. Minicabs (‘private hires’) are a common form of taxi service, but, unlike true taxis, they can’t legally pick up fares from the street: you will need to book in advance, by phone or at an office. Reputable minicab firms do not allow illegal bookings, but they’re not unknown, particularly on busy Friday and Saturday nights. If you take an unlicensed minicab, your journey is uninsured, which may have serious consequences if anything goes wrong.

Pickpockets and bag-snatchers are uncommon by the standards of major European cities, but please exercise reasonable caution at major transport stations and in popular retail areas such as Market Street.

Emergency call: 999 or 112

In an emergency requiring assistance from police, firefighters, or an ambulance crew/paramedics, IMMEDIATELY CALL 999. This number works on any phone operational in the UK, and there is no charge.

The European standard 112 is also fully implemented and works identically to 999.

On the University campus, from an internal telephone, instead dial 9999 (four 9s).

Don’t rely on the US/Canadian code 911: it is almost fully implemented, but may fail on some systems including older payphones.

The operator will open the call with ‘Emergency. Which service?’ You should respond ‘Police’, ‘Fire’ or ‘Ambulance’ as appropriate.

You will then be transferred to another operator who will take details of the incident. The first priority will be to identify your location – note any useful street signs, landmarks, etc – and you will then be talked through further questions to determine the appropriate response.

If you are not a fluent English speaker and have trouble explaining, tell the operator and say what your first language is. Interpreters may be available.

The official guidance states that 999 should always be used in the following situations:

  • You require, or someone else requires, immediate medical attention
  • Your own welfare or that of someone else is in immediate danger
  • A crime is in progress, or about to happen
  • There is a risk of serious damage to property
  • A fire is in progress, or has been in progress
  • Persons are trapped in buildings or vehicles, with no safe means of escape.

Non-emergency police and medical requests

If you have a non-emergency problem to report to the police (for instance: vehicle stolen or property damaged in your absence; minor traffic accident), you can call the national police non-emergency number on 101. There is a small charge for this service.

If you have a problem of this kind on the University campus, you should first of all call University security: +44 (0) 161 306 9966 from an external phone, or 69966 from an internal University phone.

For fast medical help and information about walk-in and urgent health care facilities, call NHS Direct on 111, or check http://www.nhs.uk/.