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911 turned forty

POSTED: March 12, 2008 5:00 a.m.
The three digit number known for saving countless lives turned 40 on Feb. 16.
While many take for granted the ease and efficiency provided by 911 in dispatching emergency personnel where needed. There was a time when, just like everything else, the fight to launch 911 first was a battle for power and authority between AT&T and a smaller independent phone company.
According to Dispatch Monthly Magazine, AT&T first announced its plan to introduce a three digit emergency number in January of 1968. It was modeled after Great Britain's 999 emergency number system implemented in 1937.
AT&T's announcement came after Pres. Lyndon Johnson recommended that police departments have a single number to call, and that eventually that single number should be used nationwide. The recommendation was based on input from the Commission on Law Enforcement and Administration of Justice's Task Force on Science and Technology in 1967.
In November of year memos and other correspondence between the commission and the White House, the development and concept of a single emergency telephone number worked its way to the Federal Communications Commission, and then to AT&T, which was the major telephone carrier at the time.  
AT&T issued a press release that was picked up by the Wall Street Journal on Jan.  12, 1968 detailing the emergency system plan.
Bob Gallagher, president of the independent Alabama Telephone Co., read the article and decided he was going to do all he could to beat AT&T to the punch by implementing the 911 system in Alabama, within his company's territory. He assigned Robert Fitzgerald, Alabama Telephone's inside plant manager, the task of finding a suitable location and commenced work immediately. The site chosen was Haleyville, Ala.
Just 35 days after AT&T's announcement, Gallagher emerged victorious as the first 911 call was placed from Haleyville's City Hall to the local police station. The 911 system in the United States was born.
By 1973, 911 was adopted as a nationwide policy. Soon many 911 systems were in place. As technology advanced many areas have added enhanced 911 (E-911) enabling the operator immediate access to pertinent information regarding the location and call.
According to Tom Wahl, director of Liberty County's Public Safety Communication, Liberty County began using the E-911 system in 1992.
 

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