Development of 9-1-1
The three-digit telephone number "9-1-1" has
been designated as the "Universal Emergency Number," for
citizens throughout the United States to request emergency assistance.
It is intended as a nationwide telephone number and gives the public
fast and easy access to a Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP).
In the United States, the first catalyst for a
nationwide emergency telephone number was in 1957, when the National
Association of Fire Chiefs recommended use of a single number for
In 1967, the President's Commission on Law Enforcement
and Administration of Justice recommended that a "single number
should be established" nationwide for reporting emergency
situations. The use of different telephone numbers for each type of
emergency was determined to be contrary to the purpose of a single,
universal number. Other Federal Government Agencies and various
governmental officials also supported and encouraged the recommendation.
As a result of the immense interest in this issue, the President's
Commission on Civil Disorders turned to the Federal Communications
Commission (FCC) for a solution.
In November 1967, the FCC met with the American
Telephone and Telegraph Company (AT&T) to find a means of
establishing a universal emergency number that could be implemented
quickly. In 1968, AT&T announced that it would establish the digits
9-1-1 (nine-one-one) as the emergency code throughout the United States.
The code 9-1-1 was chosen because it best fit the
needs of all parties involved. First, and most important, it meets
public requirements because it is brief, easily remembered, and can be
dialed quickly. Second, because it is a unique number, never having been
authorized as an office code, area code, or service code, it best meets
the long range numbering plans and switching configurations of the
Congress backed AT&T's proposal and passed
legislation allowing use of only the numbers 9-1-1 when creating a
single emergency calling service, thereby making 9-1-1 a standard
emergency number nationwide. A Bell System policy was established to
absorb the cost of central office modifications and any additions
necessary to accommodate the 9-1-1 code as part of the general rate
base. The Enhanced 9-1-1, or E9-1-1, subscriber is responsible for
paying network trunking costs according to tariffed rates, and for
purchasing answering equipment from the vendor of their choice.
On February 16, 1968, Senator Rankin Fite completed
the first 9-1-1 call made in the United States in Haleyville, Alabama.
The serving telephone company was then Alabama Telephone Company. This
Haleyville 9-1-1 system is still in operation today. On
February 22, 1968, Nome, Alaska implemented 9-1-1 service.
In March 1973, the White House's Office of
Telecommunications issued a national policy statement which recognized
the benefits of 9-1-1, encouraged the nationwide adoption of 9-1-1, and
provided for the establishment of a Federal Information Center to assist
units of government in planning and implementation. The intense interest
in the concept of 9-1-1 can be attributed primarily to the recognition
of characteristics of modern society, i.e., increased incidences of
crimes, accidents, and medical emergencies, inadequacy of existing
emergency reporting methods, and the continued growth and mobility of
In the early 1970s, AT&T began the development of
sophisticated features for the 9-1-1 with a pilot program in Alameda
County, California. The feature was "selective call routing."
This pilot program supported the theory behind the Executive Office of
Telecommunication's Policy. By the end of 1976, 9-1-1 was serving about
17% of the population of the United States. In 1979, approximately 26%
of the population of the United States had 9-1-1 service, and nine
states had enacted 9-1-1 legislation. At this time, 9-1-1 service was
growing at the rate of 70 new systems per year. By 1987, those figures
had grown to indicate that 50% of the US population had access to 9-1-1
emergency service numbers.
In addition, Canada recognized the advantages of a
single emergency number and chose to adopt 9-1-1 rather than use a
different means of emergency reporting service, thus unifying the
concept and giving 9-1-1 international stature.
At the end of the 20th century, nearly 93%
of the population of the United States was covered by some type of 9-1-1
service. Ninety-five percent of that coverage was Enhanced 9-1-1.
Approximately 96% of the geographic US is covered by some type of 9-1-1.