The History Behind The 9-1-1 Emergency Number

Written by KOVA Corp

You might be surprised to find out just where and how the number developed.

In today’s society we tend to take it for granted that there is always someone we can call for help in case of an emergency. In the event of a home invasion, car accident, or fire, police and emergency services are just a phone call away. Dial 9-1-1 and you are instantly connected to an emergency call center that can almost immediately send help on its way. It may be hard to imagine, but it wasn’t always like this. The first 9-1-1 system in the United States was actually put in place in 1968 in Haleyville, Alabama. Let’s take a look at the evolution of the 9-1-1 emergency dispatch as we know it today. Check it out.

  • The idea of being able to dial one universal number for emergencies was pioneered by the British and their 9-9-9 number in 1937. In 1957 Sydney Australia implemented their own 9-9-9 emergency number, and in 1958 New Zealand began its 1-1-1 emergency number. The first call in Britain was to report an attempted burglary, and the suspect was apprehended.
  • Congress investigated the idea of a universal emergency number in 1958, and then passed a mandate in 1967. The new number had to be three numbers that were not being used in the United States or Canada as the first three numbers of a phone number or area code. The first 9-1-1 call was placed by Alabama Speaker of the House Rankin Fite, and answered by Congressman Tom Bevill on February 16, 1968. The call was placed from the Haleyville City Hall to the city’s police station. Bevill reportedly answered with a pretty standard “hello.”
  • On July 1, 1968, New York City began 9-1-1 services for its police department only. The city would expand its 911 services to include fire and EMS on October 14, 1973. Also in 1973 the White House Office of Telecommunications Policy issued a statement encouraging municipalities to join the 9-1-1 system.
  • On February 16, 1993, Alabama Governor Guy Hunt issued a proclamation creating Emergency Personnel Day in honor of Alabama achieving the first 9-1-1 dispatch in the nation.
  • On October 26, 1997, President Clinton signed Senate Bill 800, designating 9-1-1 as the national emergency number, a mostly symbolic gesture.

As you can see, the 9-1-1 system that we know and trust today is a relatively recent development. Before there was a 9-1-1 dispatcher to direct your calls, response times were markedly longer, and the ability to contact emergency services was not guaranteed. At KOVA, we realize how lucky we are to have this amazing service at our fingertips, and we are constantly working on ways to improve the speed and quality of these calls. If you would like to learn more about our 9-1-1 call center solutions, and find out what makes us the best at what we do, give us a call today or leave us a comment below.

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