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History of 9-1-1

Reprinted from

When was 911 "invented?" The simple answer is: over 35 years ago. However, the development of the three-digit number in the United States is slightly more complex than a single date. Here is a summary of how it was implemented for the first time in the United States, and events leading up to that historic event.

By the way, this collection of material was prompted by Reba Fitzgerald, who contacted me after the death of her husband in June 2001: it was Robert Fitzgerald and his colleagues who implemented the first 911 system in Haleyville (Ala.) in 1968. Ms. Fitzgerald spent the last year of her life working to set the record straight, and then no doubt satisfied she had accomplished some measure of success, died in August 2002.

There is no debate on where the first 911 call was placed. However, there is considerable unverifiable information about who was involved and how 911 was developed. We have investigated the genesis of the first 911 system, and present here the first accurate, documented history of 911, including key dates, whether we've confirmed the event with documentation from the time (not from later recollections), and the details of the event. E-mail us if you have confirming documentation for events without a check mark, or if you have corrections/updates--check below for the missing information we need verified. We hope this account will finally give credit to those whose imagination and spirit helped create the invaluable resource of 911.