How 911 Started: Understanding The Origins of 911 and Making the Switch to NG911

Posted in All, NGA911 on Jun 03, 2022

Over time, technological evolutions have created a demand for emergency systems that can keep up with the immediate needs of a digitally-communicating world. While the 911 infrastructure of the past has served communities well across America, public safety industry leaders have recognized the request for more accurate and streamlined 911 systems with the implementation and switch to NG9-1-1. 

In this blog from the leading NG911 providers and experts at NGA, we will discuss:

  • What 911 is and how it works

  • The origins and history of 911

  • 911 advancements and system modernizations

  • What NG911 is 

  • Making the switch to NG911

What is 911 Exactly?

911 (nine-one-one) is a three-digit phone number designed to provide citizens with direct access to a PSAP (Public Safety Answering Point). 911 is also the emergency number for contacting local police, medics, and fire. 

How Does 911 Work?

When someone in need dials 911, the signal goes through to the phone company’s database. The signal locates the information the individual provided their phone company at the start of their service. 

Then, the signal and data are sent in the form of an ANI/ALI (Automatic Name and Location Information) to a nearby PSAP where the person in need is connected to a 911 telecommunicator. The telecommunicator answering the 911 call determines the type of emergency response service needed by conversing with the caller. 

The 911 telecommunicator is usually the first link in the emergency response supply chain. These public safety professionals provide initial assistance when necessary and immediately contact the correct first responders to help and emergency resources to dispatch. 

The Origins and History of 911: A Timeline

1957: The National Association of Fire Chiefs suggests using a single phone number for reporting fires. Thus providing the catalyst for the eventual creation of the 911 nationwide emergency number in the United States. (source: 

1967: President Lyndon B. Johnson’s Commission on Law Enforcement and Administration of Justice recommends that a single number for reporting emergencies should be established nationwide. This implementation of a single, universal number for all types of emergencies leads to a more accurate and efficient response to emergencies across the nation. 

November 1967: The FCC (Federal Communications Commission) meets with AT&T (the American Telephone and Telegraph Company) to find a quick way to establish a universal emergency number. 

1968: AT&T announces that the digits 9-1-1 (nine-one-one) will be established as the universal emergency number throughout the U.S. 

February 16, 1968: Senator Rankin Fite successfully makes the first 911 call in Haleyville, Alabama. The Haleyville 911 system that took Senator Fite’s call is still in operation today. 

March 1973: The White House’s Office of Telecommunications issues a nationwide policy statement that recognizes the advantages of 911, encouraging the adoption of 911, and stating that the Federal Information Center will assist with the planning and implementation of the emergency number across the United States. 

By the end of the 20th century, nearly 93% of American cities and communities were covered by some form of 911 service, with most of that coverage being E911 (Enhanced 911). (Source:

A Closer Look Into 911 Technological Advancements and System Modernizations

With the continued growth of the population, increased crime rates, and technological developments, public safety leaders and government officials recognized the need for system advancements in the 911 infrastructure. 

Over time, telecommunications organizations have developed more sophisticated features for 911 systems to adapt and support innovations in wireless communication technology, such as wireless 911 caller location tracking and real-time multimedia sharing

Enhanced 911 

E911, or Enhanced 911, is the emergency response system many 911 call centers still use today. Since its beginnings in October of 1999, the implementation of E911 paved the way for more modernized tools and features in emergency response telecommunications systems. 

For example, with E911, addresses could be displayed on Enhanced 911 systems. PSAPs and first responders could use that address information to locate an emergency call or situation better using ALI (Automatic Location Identifier).   

As wireless phones and smart devices became more universally used, the need for faster, more accurate emergency response services increased. Enhanced 911 was the start of more modernized technology becoming accessible to 911 infrastructures, thus contributing to the introduction of NG911


The origins of NG911 began in 2007 when local governments and public safety officials identified the need for a 911 system that could support and withstand the rapid growth of evolving communication technologies across the nation. 

NG911, or Next Generation 911, is also referred to as the next generation of 911. The NG911 system was designed to allow wireless, cloud-based technologies to integrate into the 911 infrastructure without interruption. These wireless, cloud-based technologies supported by NG911 include GIS information and smart device location data, which uses Bluetooth, WIFI, GPS, and many more. 

Next Generation 911 also brought forth the introduction of more information becoming more easily accessible through multimedia sharing. By first responders receiving information about an incident or emergency through real-time text, video, and photo messaging, 911 telecommunicators can use this data to build greater situational awareness and dispatch life-saving resources more efficiently.  

What is NG911 Exactly?

Next Generation 911 (NG911) is an emergency telecommunications system. The NG911 infrastructure enables voice and multimedia communications between the 911 caller, PSAP, and first responder by running on secure IP (Internet Protocol), cloud-based networks based on NENA standards

With Next Generation 911, citizens in need of emergency assistance can transmit texts, photos, videos, and other existing forms of communication applications to 911 professionals in real-time. 

Currently, there is an NG911 initiative set in place to implement the Next Generation 911 system in every PSAP and 911 call center in America. 

Why Make the Switch to NG911?

When it comes to the protection and safety of the general public, having the right 911 system in place makes all the difference. With the revolutionary innovations of the NG911 infrastructure, Next Generation 911 can enhance the capabilities of today’s 911 system. 

NG911 telecommunications technology allows for improved compatibility with more avenues for communication. This faster, more accessible communication provides greater situational awareness for 911 dispatchers and first responders and establishes a level of resiliency not achieved before with previous 911 infrastructures.  


The 911 industry is constantly working on new innovations, with some cutting-edge technology that has yet to be developed. Looking back on the origins and history of 911 and system advancements makes us at NGA hopeful about what the future holds for the public safety industry.

Would you like to know more about the NG911 infrastructure?

Connect with our NG911 providers and experts at NGA to get started today!