History of 9-1-1

9-1-1 is a three-digit telephone number that has been set aside as the telephone number to be used in the event of an emergency and as a means of calling for police, fire, or emergency medical assistance.

In some countries, a three-digit number has been used for many years. Great Britain has used the digits 9-9-9 since 1930, Belgium uses 9-0-0, and Denmark uses 0-0-0.

The concept of a three-digit emergency number in the United States is the result of the urging of some concerned citizens and the Presidential Commission on Law Enforcement in 1967, that a single telephone number be established nationwide for reporting emergency situations.

On January 12, 1968, American Telephone and Telegraph (AT&T) designated 9-1-1 to be used throughout the country as the dedicated emergency telephone number. During the 1970s, a movement began to provide nationwide support and coordination of 9-1-1.

Beginning with California, several states passed legislation encouraging or mandating local installation of 9-1-1 systems. In Texas, the earliest systems were city­oriented and primarily funded through the assistance of federal grants. The City of Odessa installed the first 9-1-1 system in Texas in April 1970. 

The 9-1-1 system replaces existing seven­-digit emergency numbers, which are difficult to remember and vary between services and communities. As the availability of federal funds declined, cities and counties were left to use general fund appropriations for the implementation of systems.

In the early 1980s, the State of Texas legislated a self-supported funding structure for 9-1-1. The 9-1-1 Emergency Act was signed into law by Governor Mark White on May 10, 1983. This act authorized the creation of the communications district for the Greater Harris County area. This legislation was amended several times and now there are 24 communications districts within the state.