Celebrating the 50th Anniversary of 9-1-1

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Fifty years ago, on February 16, 1968, Senator Rankin Fite placed the first 9-1-1 call in Haleyville, Alabama. The red rotary phone that he used to make the call is still on display in Haleyville, and the city hosts a 9-1-1 festival every year to honor the historical moment. Decades later, “9-1-1” has become embedded in American culture — even children know which number to call in an emergency.

Fox also recently debuted a 9-1-1 TV show that chronicles the daily lives of members of public safety (with a few dramatic twists). Just from the title alone, “9-1-1,” viewers immediately recognize the show’s premise of emergency response. 

50th anniversary of 9-1-1

But the nation’s 911 system didn’t appear overnight. By the late 1970s, only 26% of Americans had access to 9-1-1 service. Many cities didn’t implement 9-1-1 service until the mid-1980s (LA didn’t have 9-1-1 service until 1984), and by this time only 50% of the United States had 9-1-1 coverage.

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Technology has dramatically changed over the past 50 years, but not when it comes to our nation’s 9-1-1 system.

In 1968, no one could have predicted that eventually 80% of 9-1-1 calls would come from mobile phones. Most 9-1-1 call centers manage hundreds to thousands of 9-1-1 calls daily, and dispatchers must work with minimal information from cell towers and GPS to locate each caller.

These feats are extraordinary, especially when you consider how often you don’t know where you are (think about all of the times that you’ve driven down the highway and haven’t paid attention to which exit you just passed, or the number of times you’ve used Google Maps to orient yourself). 

Over the past 5 years we have worked closely with the public safety community to solve this location and data challenge. On the 50th anniversary of 9-1-1, our partners in tech and public safety are just as excited as we are to transform emergency response.

This is an incredible moment in our nation’s history history. Fifty years is a long time to wait, but together with our partners we are bringing advanced technology to emergency response.


Ready to see precise caller location and rich data in your PSAP? Fill out the form below to learn more about the RapidSOS Clearinghouse from a member of our Public Safety Team.