A Guide to 911

What is 911? When should I call? What happens when I dial 911? I hope to answer these questions and more on this page, so the residents of Sherborn, and others, will have a better idea of what happens when they press 911 on their phones.

A Brief History

To understand what happens when you dial 911 you should understand why the 911 system was developed. In the early days of telephone use in the United States, up to the 1960's, every County, City, or Town could have a different phone number to dial in the case of emergency. It was also likely that a different phone number would need to be dialed depending on what type of emergency you had. Police, Fire, and Medical services might all be reached by dialing different phone numbers.

In 1957 the National Association of Fire Chiefs recommended a single number be chosen to be used in reporting fires nationwide. The suggestion was that no matter where you were, a single number would connect you to that area's local fire department, thus saving time in an emergency. It wasn't until 1967, ten years later, that the Presidents Commission on Law Enforcement and Administration of Justice recommended a single number that could be used to report ALL emergencies.

The responsibility fell on the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) who met with AT&T in November of 1967 to come up with a solution. It was necessary to have a number that was simple to remember, easy to dial in an emergency, and that would not be easily misdialed. 911 made sense, as they were on opposite ends of the rotary dial, at that time the common phone.

Today, in over 93% of locations in the United States and Canada, dialing "911" from any telephone will link the caller to an emergency dispatch center (information provided from Wikipedia.com).

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