Today in History: First 911 Call Placed in the United States

Today in History: First 911 Call Placed in the United States

On February 16, 1968, the first official 911 Call was placed in the United States.  

The idea for creating a 911 system grew as telephones became more common in households across America. Fire departments across the U.S. pushed for an emergency number as they felt an easy number to dial in the event of a fire or other emergency would save time and, therefore, save lives. 

It wasn't until 1964 when the unreported murder of a New York City woman proved the need for a 911 system after the 28-year-old was stabbed to death. Because while thirty-eight people heard her screams for help, none of them had an easy way to call for help before the victim bled to death.

 At the time, people called in emergencies directly to the operator, police or fire department. For many, this meant looking up the phone number in the large phone book to see if it was available. 

The number 911 was chosen by AT&T, which was around even back then and controlled nearly all phone lines in the U.S. The number 911 was suggested because it was easy to remember and because it was not an area code.

The first call to 911 was made by the Speaker of the Alabama House of Representatives, Rep. Rankin Fite. The senator called from Haleyville, Alabama, on February 16, 1968. 

One week later, Nome, Alaska, set up their own 911 system. 

By 1987, fifty percent of the states in the U.S. had adopted the 911 system.

Canada also uses the same digits for emergency calls, bringing us to the point today where 98 percent of the United States and Canada can call 911 in the case of an emergency.

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