National Emergency Number Association recognizes 40th anniversary of first 911 call

February 16, 2008 will mark the 40th Anniversary of the first ever 911 call. The initial, historic call was placed in Haleyville, Alabama City Hall by Alabama Speaker of the House Rankin Fite to U.S. Rep. Tom Bevill at the city’s police station.

“To see the progress we have made in the past four decades is truly remarkable,” said NENA President, Jason Barbour, ENP. “We have overcome many challenges over the years to create the world’s best emergency communications system. 911 is a brand that the American people know they can rely on in times of crisis, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. That is testament to the spirit of innovation and collaboration amongst the many groups that started in Haleyville and continues through today.”

In 1967, the President’s Commission on Law Enforcement and Administration of Justice recommended the creation of a single, universal number that could be used from coast-to-coast to report emergencies. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) was then charged with spearheading this bold initiative. In turn, the FCC met with AT&T in November of that year in order to devise a solution. In the first days of 1968, AT&T chose a brief, easy to remember, and simple to dial number: 911. In Alabama, then president of the independent Alabama Telephone Co. (ATC), Bob Gallagher, read a report of the AT&T 911 announcement in the Wall Street Journal. Gallagher’s entrepreneurial and competitive nature moved him to be the first to implement the 911 service. An ATC employee, Robert Fitzgerald, recommended Haleyville as the launch site. Gallagher later issued a press release announcing that the 911 service would go live in Haleyville on February 16, 1968. Circuitry work and installation were both quickly completed, and just 35 days after AT&T’s announcement, the first-ever 911 call was placed.

“It’s on days like these that I couldn’t be more proud to be an Alabamian and a 911 professional,” said Alabama NENA President, Johnny Hart, ENP, of Arab, Alabama. “Haleyville will always be known as ‘Where 911 Began,’ and it’s an honor and distinction I wear proudly.”

“With the promise of a Next Generation 911 system on the horizon, it’s important to reflect on where we’ve been. The 40th Anniversary of 911 is a perfect opportunity to do that,” said Barbour. “We can learn a lot from the past, and those valuable lessons learned will guide us well moving into the next four decades and beyond.”

Both National NENA and the Alabama Chapter will be celebrating the 40th Anniversary of 911 at upcoming events: first in March at NENA’s 911 Goes to Washington event, then at the Alabama quarterly meeting in April, and finally at the 2008 NENA Annual 911 Conference and Trade Show in Tampa Bay, Florida in June.

More info: www.nena.org

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