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Life IS history in the making. Every word we say, everything we do becomes history the moment it is said or done. Life void of memories leaves nothing but emptiness. For those who might consider history boring, think again: It is who we are, what we do and why we are here. We are certainly individuals in our thoughts and deeds but we all germinated from seeds planted long, long ago.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

First 911 Call

This Day in History: February 16, 1968

The first 911 call in America was placed from the mayor's office in Haleyville, AL on February 16, 1968. It was made by Alabama Speaker of the House, Rankin Fite and answered by Congressman Tom Bevill a short distance away at the police station. While this was the first of its kind in the United States, the ability to dial a single number to report emergencies was first used in Great Britain in 1937. The British put the number 999 into service for emergency calls to police, medical or fire departments from anywhere in the country.

Was a special phone used for the call?

The telephone actually used to make the first 911 call was a bright red model. It is now in a museum in Haleyville, while a duplicate phone is still in use at the police station. 

 "Later, the two (Bevill and Fite) said they exchanged greetings, hung up and 'had coffee and doughnuts'."
Source: Haleyville, History of 911

The Feb. 9, 1968 issue of the "Daily Northwest Alabamian"
B.W. Gallagher (left), president of the Alabama Telephone Co.,
displays the bright red telephone installed at the Haleyville (Ala.)
police station to receive the first 911 call.

Information Sign Erected at the City Limits Displaying
New Three-Digit Emergency Number
Why the digits 9-1-1?

The new emergency needed to be three numbers easy to remember, easily dialed and one of eight N11 codes. The numbers could not already be in use in the United States or Canada as the first three numbers of any phone number or area code. The FCC and AT&T met to establish such a number. It was discovered 911 had never been designated for an office code, area code or service code. Quite an improvement since this so much simpler, quicker, more efficient than waiting for an operator, then having to say, "Get me the police", "I want to report a fire", "I need an ambulance/doctor"or "HELP!" The wait time alone for the operator could be life threatening.

Telephone operator, c. 1900
Source: en.wikipedia.org

A large Bell System international switchboard in 1943
Source: en.wikipedia.org

U.S. Air Force operator works a switchboard in the underground command post
at Strategic Air Command headquarters, Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska in 1967.

We have come a long way!