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Happy 50th Birthday, 911

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Happy 50th Birthday, 911

February 16, 2018
  By Mandi Nowitz, Web Editor

What did people do before they could call 911 to report an emergency? Today, we celebrate 50 years of being able to have that privilege. The very first 911 call ever made was placed on February 16, 1968 in Haleyville, Alabama. So, what did people do before they could call a 911 call center and report fires/emergencies?

There were seven-digit individual numbers for fire, police and ambulance which led callers to partner services. This was a huge issue back in the days when technology was not what it is today; people could not be resuscitated as easily as they can nowadays.

In 1957, a nudge would come about to implement a better call process from the National Association of Fire Chiefs. Finally, 10 years later, the President’s Commission on Law Enforcement and Administration of Justice added its recommendation. It was AT&T (News - Alert) that decided on the exact three-digit number we still use to this day.

In 1979, 26 percent of America was able to access 911 and now, it is one of the first numbers taught to children for any emergency. Sadly, call centers are not always properly staffed so some calls are not answered for approximately a minute. The Bureau of Labor Statistics said that there will be 3000 fewer dispatcher jobs in 2024 than 2014.

In California, call centers lacked agents leading to unanswered or missed calls or longer than usual hold times which can lead to death. To celebrate 911 is an amazing accomplishment, to know how far call centers have come and to recognize the agents doing their jobs. However, there needs to be far more agent accounting in place to ensure that 911 is around for the long haul, running properly. 

Edited by Ken Briodagh


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