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Communications Services

Explore E9-1-1

The Development of 9-1-1

The three-digit telephone number "9-1-1" has been designated as the "Universal Emergency Number" for citizens throughout North America. It is intended as a nationwide telephone number and gives the public quick and easy access to a Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP).

In the United States, the first catalyst for a nationwide emergency telephone number was in 1957, when the National Association of Fire Chiefs recommended use of a single number for reporting fires.

In November 1967, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) met with the American Telephone and Telegraph Company (AT&T) to find a means of establishing a universal emergency number that could be implemented quickly. In 1968, AT&T announced that it would establish the digits 9-1-1 (nine-one-one) as the emergency code throughout the United States.

The code 9-1-1 was chosen because it best fit the needs of all parties involved. First and foremost, it meets public requirements as it is brief, easily remembered, and can be dialled quickly. Second, because it is a unique number, never having been authorized as an office code, area code, or service code, it meets the long range numbering plans and switching configurations of the telephone industry.

The first 9-1-1 call was placed on February 16, 1968, in Haleyville, Alabama. The call was made by the Alabama Speaker of the House, Rankin Fite.

Canada recognized the advantages of a single emergency number and chose to adopt 9-1-1 in 1972. The city of London, Ontario was the first to implement the system in 1974.


The History of 9-1-1 in Toronto

On February 13, 1979, the council of Metropolitan Toronto adopted a report from the Metropolitan Executives Committee recommending that a committee be established to investigate the feasibility, desirability and costs of implementing a 9-1-1 emergency response number for Metropolitan Toronto. A committee was formed with Chief of Police Harold Adamson acting as Chairman. Deputy Chief Thomas Cooke was Vice Chairman. The members were made up by the six Fire Chiefs and the Commissioner of the Department of Ambulance Services. On November 6, 1979, Metro Council endorsed the application of 9-1-1.

On Monday, March 22, 1982, at about 0430 hours, a new emergency telephone number for the Metropolitan Toronto police came into being. The new number, "Nine-one-one", replaced the City's twenty-five year old emergency number, 361-1111.