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The History of 9-1-1
9-1-1 is the three digit telephone number designated as the "Universal Emergency Number" for public use to request emergency assistance throughout the United States. The three digits, "9-1-1,"" were selected because they are brief, easily remembered, and have never been previously assigned as an official code, area code or service code in the United States. 9-1-1 gives the general public direct access to a Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP) or emergency dispatch center, which identifies the proper response and either transfers the call to the appropriate agency or dispatches assistance directly.
The concept of a universal emergency phone number originated in Europe. Great Britain was the first country to establish a universal emergency telephone number. Since 1937 individuals in the United Kingdom have been able to dial "9-9-9" to request law enforcement, fire or medical assistance. Several other countries have also adopted universal emergency numbers.
The first call was placed to 9-1-1 on February 16, 1968 by Alabama State Senator, Rankin Fite. By the end of 1976, 9-1-1 was serving approximately 17% of the population of the United States. In 1979 that number had grown to 26%, and by 1987 approximately 50% of the population had access to 9-1-1 service. As we come to the close of the 20th century, approximately 85% of the population now has access to 9-1-1 service.
The use of 9-1-1 eliminates the need for a caller in an emergency situation to identify which agency to contact and locate or remember its telephone number, saving valuable time in life threatening situations. Calling 9-1-1 helps ensure you reach the emergency services you require as quickly as possible.