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Posted on Wednesday 11 January 2023
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Sometimes, you can’t quite put your finger on it, but things just don’t seem right.

Just before Christmas, the force control room received a call from a man in his 90s (who we’re calling Tom). But before we were able to get any details, the caller hung up and the handler was unable to get back in touch.

Our call handler carried out some checks and dispatched E-relief response officers, PCs Aaron McKean and Alex Armstrong to Tom’s address in Durham to carry out a welfare check.

On arrival, they realised that Tom was part of Durham’s ‘Herbert Protocol’ – a scheme which identifies vulnerable people with dementia who are at risk of going missing.

After a bit of a chat, PCs McKean and Armstrong soon realised that Tom thought he’d rang the gas company rather than police. It then became apparent that Tom had been without any heating and water for quite some time during the cold snap before Christmas.

Using their initiative, the officers had a look at his boiler which they discovered did not have enough pressure, causing it to fail.

We’re not elderly care workers. And we’re not boiler repairmen either. But we’re not going to leave someone alone in the cold over Christmas if we can help it.

Aaron and Alex managed to fix the boiler and get Tom’s heating going, before alerting other authorities to check on him and getting back to their shift.

Less than one third of the incidents we deal with are reports of crime. Many of our calls are from people like Tom who know that there’ll always be a person at the end of the phone who is willing to help when you dial 999.

We’re here for you 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

For more information on the Hebert Protocol visit: Herbert Protocol (

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