|The History of 911 Emergency Calls|
|Who Designed and Installed The First US 911 System?|
The ability to dial a single number to report emergencies was first used in Great Britain, in 1937. The British could dial 999 to call for police, medical or fire departments, from anywhere in the country. In 1958, the American Congress first investigated a universal emergency number for the United States and finally passed the legal mandate in 1967. The very first American 911 call was placed on February 16, 1968 in Haleyville, Alabama made by Alabama Speaker of the House, Rankin Fite and answered by Congressman Tom Bevill.
The new emergency number had to be
three numbers that were not in use in the United States or Canada as the
first three numbers of any phone number or area code, and the numbers had
to be easy to use. The Federal Trade Commission along with AT&T (which
held a monopoly on phone services at that time) originally announced the
plans to build the first 911 system in Huntington, Indiana. Bob Gallagher,
President of the Alabama Telephone, was annoyed that the independent phone
industry had not been consulted. Gallagher decided to beat AT&T to
the punch line and have the first 911 emergency service built in Haleyville,
Fitzgerald examined all twenty-seven
Alabama exchanges choosing the Haleyville location, and then engineered
the new circuitry and made the modifications
needed for the existing equipment. Fitzgerald and his team worked around
the clock to install the first 911 emergency system in under one week.
The team worked their regular day jobs in Fayette, traveling each night
to Haleyville to do the 911 work during off-peak hours. The work was completed
on February 16, 1968, at exactly 2 p.m. celebrated with a team cheer of
Special thanks goes to Reba Fitzgerald (loving wfe of Robert Fitzgerald) for providing the research information and photographs for this article.