Why 911 Was Created: Celebrate 55 Years of Emergency Calling in America with NG911

Posted in All, NGA911 on Feb 22, 2023

This month and year mark fifty-five years since the first 9-1-1 was placed in the United States. What began as a simple three-digit number has evolved over the last half-century as an essential lifeline for millions of Americans each year.

In celebration of this milestone, our trusted NG911 providers at NGA will look at why 9-1-1 was created, how it works today, and what the future holds for 9-1-1 emergency calling in this blog. We’ll also discuss the next generation of 9-1-1 (NG911) and the impacts of nationwide emergency calling.

Table of Contents:

  1. The Need for 9-1-1 Before 9-1-1
  2. The Origin Story of 9-1-1 Emergency Calling
  3. How 9-1-1 Works Today
  4. Technological Advancements and The Next Generation of 9-1-1
  5. Understanding the Impact of Nationwide Emergency Calling
  6. Conclusion

People Also Ask:

When did 911 originate?

The 9-1-1 number originated in November of 1967 when the FCC met with AT&T to establish a nationwide emergency number that could be implemented quickly. AT&T announced that 9-1-1 would be the emergency code throughout America in 1968.

How did you call the police before 911?

Before 9-1-1, there was no one number to dial in an emergency. Individuals needing to contact the police dialed “0” to reach a telephone operator. They had to dial a ten-digit code or number to reach the fire department or another emergency agency.

When did 911 start in the U.S.?

  1. The first 9-1-1 emergency call was placed on February 16th of that year. Before that first call, citizens dialed local ten-digital numbers to reach fire, police, or other emergency services.

The Need for 911 Before 911

Before the creation of 9-1-1, there were no uniform numbers to call for emergencies. People had to remember various numbers for emergencies or contact their local police or fire departments directly. This led to confusion and delays that could cost lives.

So, at the request of President Johnson, AT&T proposed a three-digit number for all areas that would be easy to remember and access in an emergency. The resulting number was “9-1-1”.

The Origin Story of 911 Emergency Calling

In 1968, AT&T introduced the first 9-1-1 emergency calling system adopted by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) the previous year. The goal of this system was to create a simple and easy way for people to access help in an emergency.

On February 16th of 1968, the first 9-1-1 call was placed in Haleyville, Alabama, by Rankin Fite, the Speaker of the Alabama House of Representatives. By 1971, 9-1-1 was implemented throughout most of the United States.

Since then, the three-digit emergency number has become the heartbeat of public safety in America.

How 911 Works Today

Today, all fifty states have 9-1-1. Most systems are far more sophisticated than those of the past, built and designed for advancing technologies as our society continues shifting towards digital communication.

Some infrastructures work on secure internet protocol (IP) networks that run on the cloud. This means that these emergency calling systems run on interconnect networks that allow for seamless communication between dispatchers, first responders, and emergency callers in need.

Modern systems even feature advanced call routing capabilities that allow calls to be directed to the appropriate agency or responder based on location or type of emergency. There are also state-of-the-art emergency infrastructures with sophisticated mapping tools that allow dispatchers to pinpoint callers' exact locations.

These advances have helped improve emergency response times and save more lives.

Technological Advancements and The Next Generation of 911

Since its inception, the 9-1-1 system has gone through numerous iterations, each designed to make it faster and more reliable for public safety professionals and those calling for help. One such evolution is NG911

Rightfully dubbed “the next generation of 9-1-1”, the NG911 system utilizes IP and cloud-based networks instead of traditional phone lines or cell towers.

This allows 911 callers to reach emergency services from any device connected to an IP network, such as:

  • Smartphones
  • Smartwatches
  • Tablets
  • Laptops
  • Car computer systems.

In addition, NG911 technology is allowing for even greater efficiency and accuracy when handling emergency calls. Because of its built-in technological advancements and ability to run on interconnected IP networks, NG911 enables callers to send multimedia messages directly to 9-1-1 call centers.

This multimedia includes, but is not limited to:

This ability to share and receive various forms of multimedia instantly means that individuals in need can get help quicker, sending vital data to dispatcher screens during an emergency. This information is life-saving during situations where every second counts.

Understanding the Impact of Nationwide Emergency Calling

Since its implementation in 1968, millions of people have called 9-1-1 in times of distress, and countless lives have been saved as a result. Although we may not always think about it daily, having access to emergency services is absolutely necessary for our society.

That's why it's so important for us to celebrate and recognize the 9-1-1 number and system's impact over the past fifty-five years!


As we celebrate fifty-five years since the first 9-1-1 call was made in 1968, let’s take a moment to appreciate how far we have come since then. From introducing a simple three-digit number to communicating digitally through advanced technology and NG911, emergency calling systems have revolutionized the public safety industry throughout our nation.

Let’s continue celebrating our progress over the years while looking forward to further innovations that will keep us ahead of the curve when responding to emergencies!

Connect with our NGA team today for information about NG911!