When Was 911 Invented – It’s History & Origin

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Updated: March 1, 2024



911 has saved many lives since its inception

Feeling safe begins with the specific safeguards that are out there that provide the person with a sense of comfort and security. 911 is one of these comforts that people use whenever they are in distress and need help. The 911 telephone number is able to provide your home with firefighters, paramedics for medical emergencies, or police officers if there is another problem. 911 has come a long way over the years and continues to be used each and every day.

When Was 911 Invented?

Have you been curious about when 911 was invented? The first universal emergency management phone number, 911, was created in 1957 for the purpose of public safety. Prior to 911 there was no universal emergency number.  It was proposed by firefighters that wanted to ensure people had a singular number to call to reach the fire department in an emergency. It was determined that using separate emergency numbers for separate emergencies was not ideal, and one universal number was created to ensure that people would be better able to reach the emergency personal that they are in need of.

The emergency department commission, along with AT&T, came up with a solution that this number was needed. They decided that they would hold this emergency number and transmit the calls to the necessary emergency personnel. They developed 9-1-1 since it is easily remembered, can be dialed quickly and provides the user with a quick way to reach the necessary emergency professionals.  It has also never before been used as an area code or other number, making it completely unique.

911’s Origin in the United States

Before 911, people needing emergency assistance would often have to remember and dial various local numbers depending on their location and the type of emergency. This system was inefficient and sometimes confusing.

The idea of a universal emergency number had been discussed for some time, but it wasn’t until 1967 that President Lyndon B. Johnson’s Commission on Law Enforcement and Administration of Justice recommended the establishment of a single number nationwide for reporting emergencies.

The number “911” was chosen because it was easy to remember, simple to dial, and not already in widespread use as a telephone exchange code or area code. The first 911 call in the United States was made on February 16, 1968, in Haleyville, Alabama. It was introduced and became more widely adopted in all the states the following years. For example, it was adapted in California in 1972 but wasn’t used around America until 1985.

History of the Number 911

The timeline and history of 911’s adaptation in the U.S. is pretty straightforward. In the 1970’s, AT&T and other departments came together to make the emergency 911 call number more sophisticated. They worked to provide specific departments and answering services that would provide a more productive and efficient way to send emergency crews to the necessary places that the citizens were calling from. It did not come without a fight between the emergency professionals that saw the benefits of using one of these numbers and the national government that was yet to recognize the benefits of using the system.

There were press releases, conferences, and meetings that were held to figure out if this was something that would provide the country with a unique benefit that would actually help, and not waste resources.

By the mid 1980’s, over half of the United States population was using this universal emergency number. In addition to this, Canada found the advantages of using a universal emergency number and soon adopted the same code of conduct throughout their country. They also utilize 911 as their emergency number. There wasn’t much of a need for more education on how or why the universal emergency phone service was needed.

Currently, citizens that need to have a response for an emergency use the universal emergency line, 911, throughout each of the 50 states. It has saved millions of lives by the effective and efficient way that it is able to connect these citizens in need with the emergency professionals that are able to help with the situation. 911 continues to be a go-to for the country, and it does not look like it will be replaced any time soon with another method of reaching emergency professionals.

What is the Emergency Response Number in Other Countries?

Remember when you are traveling to foreign countries and you find yourself in need of emergency assistance, the American 911 will not work for you. Each country has it own set of established emergency response protocol consisting of a three-digit emergency number. For instance, the common emergency response number is Europe is 112. It’s also important to keep in mind that when you dial 911 from your cell phone, it does not automatically track your wireless location. It may take several seconds or even minutes for the dispatch to be able to track your location. The emergency telephone number varies from country to country. While 911 is widely recognized as the emergency number in the United States and Canada, other countries have different emergency numbers. Here are some examples for you to easily access:

  • United Kingdom: 999 is the primary emergency number in the UK, although 112 also works and is a standard emergency number across the European Union.
  • Australia: 000 is the emergency number in Australia.
  • European Union (EU) countries: 112 is the standard emergency number across the European Union, alongside country-specific numbers like 999 in the UK, 112 in Germany, and others.
  • India: 100 is the police emergency number, 101 is for fire emergencies, and 102 is for medical emergencies.
  • Japan: 110 is the police emergency number, and 119 is for fire and ambulance services.
  • China: 110 is the police emergency number, and 120 is for medical emergencies.
  • South Africa: 10111 is the emergency number for police, while 10177 is for ambulance and fire emergencies.

These are just a few examples, and many other countries have their own specific emergency numbers. Additionally, as mentioned earlier, 112 is a standard emergency number in many countries, including those within the European Union.

If you or your loved one are ever faced with an emergency situation, rest assured that help can easily be reached.  Simply dialing 911 will connect you with an emergency dispatcher who can send police, fire or EMS services to you quickly when you need it most. If you feel like you need more protection at home, a medical alert device could be a good option. If you are looking for a medical alert company, check out our Life Alert reviews to see how they can help if your loved one can’t get to a phone to call for help.