Happy Birthday 911!

47 years ago, the first 911 call was placed in Haleyville, AL. On February 16, 1968, the first-ever 911 call was made by Rankin Fite, Alabama Speaker of the House. The call was placed from Haleyville City Hall to to the city’s police station. US Representative Tom Bevill reportedly answered the phone with “Hello.”

Why Alabama? According to one article, the president of Alabama Telephone Company read an article in the Wall Street Journal that AT&T was planning the use of 911 for emergency dialing for what was then called the Bell System. Alabama Telephone was an independent company, so they would not have been included. But Bob Gallagher, the president of ATC, was a competitive guy and wanted to beat AT&T to the punch.

The development of 911 took many years. The UK experimented with 999 in 1937. In the US, the idea of a single number was first proposed by the National Association of Fire Chiefs for reporting fires in 1957.

And after the Haleyville call, it took many years more for 911 to be adopted across the US and for all public safety emergencies (New York city expanded 911 to fire, police and EMS in 1973.)

Today, 911 covers more than 96% of the US.