The history of 911 and current issues

7:34 PM, Apr 25, 2012   |    comments
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It was February 1968 when the Alabama Telephone Company activated the first 911 service in the U.S. 

The number 911 was chosen because it was not in service as an area code or service code number and it was easy to remember.

Consumers pay for 911 service with taxes and/or fees to their telecommunications provider.

Ninety-nine percent of America is connected to 911 via land line. However, it's estimated at least 70 percent of Americans now have cellphones and increasingly use them to place 911 calls. There are several issues with mobile device 911 calls: 

  • Cellphone reception can be hit and miss in some geographical areas.
  • The cellphone number may not automatically display to the 911 call taker. Should the connection be lost, the 911 dispatcher doesn't have a way to call the 911 caller back. 
  • Additionally, the mobility of cellphones that makes them so popular poses the problem of 911 call origination location. Emergency responders may be able to pinpoint a call's rough origination point via triangulation and cellphone towers but not the precise location.
  • In some emergencies, the 911 caller may only be able to text or send a photo or video. The great majority of 911 Public Safety Access Points (PSAPs) are not equipped and don't have the adequate bandwidth to receive emergency information sent by those technologies. 
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