History of 911


1957: The National Association of Fire Chiefs recommends use of a single number for reporting fires.


1967: The President's Commission on Law Enforcement and Administration of Justice recommends the establishment of a nationwide single number for the purpose of reporting emergencies. An early proposal called for a different phone number for each type of emergency but that idea was struck down because it contradicted the purpose of a single, universal number. Several politicians and government agencies expressed interest and the Federal Communications Commission was consulted for a resolution.

November, 1967: AT&T and the FCC meet to discuss the rapid introduction of a nationwide emergency number.

1968: AT&T announces 911 as the nationwide emergency number. 911 was chosen because it is easily remembered and at the time no area codes or office codes used it. Congress agrees with AT&T and passes a bill which reserves the number for nationwide use. The cost of updating telephone company equipment is offset by a fee included into a phone subscriber's base rate.

February, 1968: Alabama Telephone Company becomes the first telephone service to implement 911. Senator Rankin Fite dials the first 911 call from a phone in Haleyville, AL.


1970: The city of Columbia first considers a 911 system.

1972: A 911 system is implemented for Columbia dialing prefixes only.

Early 1970's: Alameda County, California becomes the testing location for a new pilot program introduced by AT&T called "selective call routing". This is the beginning of Enhanced 911.

1976: More than one quarter of the United States has 911 service. Nine states have legislation enacted for the emergency number. Seventy new 911 centers a year are being established.


1986: 911 service is extended to all of Boone County. Enhanced 911 is installed allowing every 911 call placed from a phone in Boone County to be traced to the location from which it originated.

1987: 59% of the United States has 911 service. Canada creates its own nationwide emergency number service and adopts 911 as well.

Today & Beyond

Today, about 95% of the United States has 911 access. Of that number, 95% of the 911 service is enhanced (selective call routing with number and location identification).

Legislation has already passed in many states requiring cell phones to be compliant with local indexes for the enhanced 911 system by 2004. This means any cellular telephone that dials 911 should be able to identify its number to the system and be located within a hundred yards or less.