9-1-1, also written 911, is an emergency telephone number for
North American Numbering Plan
North American Numbering Plan (NANP), one of eight N11 codes. Like
other emergency numbers around the world, this number is intended for
use in emergency circumstances only, and using it for any other
purpose (such as making false or prank calls) is a crime in certain
In over 98% of locations in the
United States and Canada, dialing
"9-1-1" from any telephone will link the caller to an emergency
dispatch office—called a public-safety answering point (PSAP) by the
telecom industry—which can send emergency responders to the caller's
location in an emergency. In approximately 96 percent of the
U.S., the enhanced
9-1-1 system automatically pairs caller numbers
with a physical address.
In the Philippines, the
9-1-1 emergency hotline has been available to
the public since August 1, 2016, although it was first available in
Davao City. It is the first of its kind in Asia-Pacific region. It
replaces the previous emergency number 117 used outside Davao City.
As of 2017, a
9-1-1 system is in use in Mexico, where implementation
in different states and municipalities is being conducted.
999 is used in Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong, the United Kingdom, and
many British territories amongst other places. 112 is the equivalent
emergency number used in the European Union and various other
countries. In the US, some carriers, including AT&T, map the
number 112 to the emergency number 9-1-1. 000 is used in Australia.
100 is the emergency number of India.
2 Enhanced 9-1-1
3 Computer-aided dispatch
4.1 Emergency service response
5 Problems with 9-1-1
5.1 Inactive telephones
5.2 Cell phones
5.5 Emergencies across jurisdictions
6 Making calls public
7 See also
9 External links
In the earliest days of telephone technology, prior to the development
of the rotary dial telephone, all telephone calls were
operator-assisted. To place a call, the caller was required to pick up
the telephone receiver, sometimes turn a magneto crank, and wait for
the telephone operator to answer. The caller would then ask to be
connected to the number they wished to call, and the operator would
make the required connection manually, by means of a switchboard.
In an emergency, the caller might simply say "Get me the police", "I
want to report a fire", or "I need an ambulance or doctor". Until dial
service came into use, one could not place calls without proper
"Emergency 911" displayed on the side of an Upper Dublin Township,
Pennsylvania police vehicle, indicating that
9-1-1 is the number to
dial in the event of an emergency.
The first known use of a national emergency telephone number began in
United Kingdom in 1937, using the number 999, which continues to
this day. In the United States, the push for the development of a
nationwide American emergency telephone number came in 1957 when the
National Association of Fire Chiefs
National Association of Fire Chiefs recommended that a single number
be used for reporting fires. The first city in North America to use
a central emergency number was the Canadian city of Winnipeg, Manitoba
in 1959, which instituted the change at the urging of Stephen Juba,
Winnipeg at the time.
Winnipeg initially used 999 as the
emergency number, but switched numbers when
9-1-1 was proposed by
the United States. In 1967, the President's Commission on Law
Enforcement and Administration of Justice recommended the creation of
a single number that could be used nationwide for reporting
Federal Communications Commission
Federal Communications Commission then met with
AT&T in November 1967 in order to choose the number.
In 1968, the number was agreed upon. AT&T chose the number 9-1-1,
which was simple, easy to remember, dialed easily, and worked well
with the phone systems in place at the time. At the time, this
announcement only affected the
Bell System telephone companies;
independent phone companies were not included in the emergency
telephone plan. However, Bob Gallagher of the
Company decided he wanted to implement it ahead of AT&T, and the
company chose Haleyville, Alabama, as the location.
On February 16, 1968,
Alabama Speaker of the House
Rankin Fite placed
9-1-1 call from Haleyville City Hall, to Congressman
Tom Bevill, at the city's police station. Bevill was accompanied by
Alabama Public Service Commission director Eugene "Bull"
Connor. The phone used to answer the first
9-1-1 call, a bright red
model, is now in a museum in Haleyville, while a duplicate phone is
still in use at the police station.
Public notice on highway
AT&T made its first implementation in Huntington, Indiana, the
hometown of J. Edward Roush, who sponsored the federal legislation to
establish the nationwide system, on March 1, 1968. However, the spread
9-1-1 implementation took many years. For example, although the
City of Chicago, Illinois, had access to
9-1-1 service as early as
Illinois Commerce Commission did not authorize telephone
Illinois Bell to offer
9-1-1 to the
until 1981. Implementation was not immediate even then; by 1984,
Chicago suburbs in Cook County had
9-1-1 service. As
late as 1989, at least 28
Chicago suburbs still lacked
some of those towns had previously elected to decline
due to costs and—according to emergency response personnel—failure
to recognize the benefits of the
9-1-1 system. By 1979, 26% of the
U.S. population could dial the number. This increased to 50% by 1987
and 93% by 2000. As of December 2017[update], 98.9% of the U.S.
population has access.
9-1-1 in Canada began in 1972, and as of 2018 virtually
all areas, except for some rural areas, such as the Northwest
Territories and Nunavut, are using 9-1-1. As of 2008[update],
Canadians make twelve million calls to 9-1-1.
On September 15, 2010, AT&T announced that the State of Tennessee
had approved a service to support a text to
9-1-1 trial statewide,
where AT&T would be able to allow its users to send text messages
British Overseas Territories
British Overseas Territories in the
Caribbean use the North
American Numbering Plan; Anguilla, Bermuda, the British Virgin
Islands, and the
Cayman Islands use 9-1-1.
On October 3, 2016, sixteen states of
Mexico switched their emergency
phone number from 0-6-6 to 9-1-1, and the whole country converted
in June 2017.
This section needs additional citations for verification. Please help
improve this article by adding citations to reliable sources.
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Main article: Enhanced 9-1-1
Enhanced 9-1-1 (E-911 or E911) automatically gives the dispatcher the
caller's location, if available.
Enhanced 9-1-1 is available in
most areas (approximately 96 percent of the U.S.).
In all North American jurisdictions, special privacy legislation
permits emergency operators to obtain a
9-1-1 caller's telephone
number and location information. This information is gathered by
mapping the calling phone number to an address in a database. This
database function is known as Automatic Location Identification
(ALI). The database is generally maintained by the local telephone
company, under a contract with the PSAP. Each telephone company has
its own standards for the formatting of the database. Most ALI
databases have a companion database known as the MSAG, Master Street
Address Guide. The MSAG describes address elements including the exact
spellings of street names, and street number ranges.
In the case of mobile phones, the associated billing address is not
necessarily the location to which emergency responders should be sent,
since the device is portable. This means that locating the caller is
more complicated, and there is a different set of legal and technical
requirements. To locate a mobile telephone geographically, there are
two general approaches: to use some form of radiolocation from the
cellular network, or to use a
Global Positioning System
Global Positioning System receiver built
into the phone itself. Both approaches are described by the radio
resource location services protocol (LCS protocol). Depending on the
mobile phone hardware, one of two types of location information can be
provided to the operator. The first is Wireless Phase One (WPH1),
which is the tower location and the direction the call came from, and
the second is Wireless Phase Two (WPH2), which provides an estimated
As Voice over
Internet Protocol (VoIP) technology matured, service
providers began to interconnect VoIP with the public switched
telephone network and marketed the VoIP service as a cheap replacement
phone service. However, E911 regulations and legal penalties have
severely hampered the more widespread adoption of VoIP: VoIP is much
more flexible than land line phone service, and there is no easy way
to verify the physical location of a caller on a nomadic VoIP network
at any given time (especially in the case of wireless networks), and
so many providers offered services which specifically excluded 9-1-1
service so as to avoid the severe E-911 non-compliance penalties. VoIP
services tried to improvise, such as routing
9-1-1 calls to the
administrative phone number of the Public Safety Answering Point,
adding on software to track phone locations, etc.
In response to the E911 challenges inherent to IP phone systems,
specialized technology has been developed to locate callers in the
event of an emergency. Some of these new technologies allow the caller
to be located down to the specific office on a particular floor of a
building. These solutions support a wide range of organizations with
IP telephony networks. The solutions are available for service
providers offering hosted
IP PBX and residential VoIP services. This
increasingly important segment in IP phone technology includes E911
call routing services and automated phone tracking appliances. Many of
these solutions have been established according to FCC, CRTC, and NENA
i2 standards, in order to help enterprises and service providers
reduce liability concerns and meet E911 regulations.
Main article: Computer-aided dispatch
9-1-1 dispatchers use computer-aided dispatch (CAD) to record a log of
police, fire, and EMS services. It can either be used to send messages
to the dispatchee via a mobile data terminal (MDT) and/or used to
store and retrieve data (i.e. radio logs, field interviews, client
information, schedules, etc.). A dispatcher may announce the call
details to field units over a two-way radio. Some systems communicate
using a two-way radio system's selective calling features.
CAD systems may send text messages with call-for-service details to
alphanumeric pagers or wireless telephony text services like SMS. The
central idea is that persons in a dispatch center are able to easily
view and understand the status of all units being dispatched. CAD
provides displays and tools so that the dispatcher has an opportunity
to handle calls-for-service as efficiently as possible.
In the United States,
9-1-1 and enhanced
9-1-1 are typically funded
based on state laws that impose monthly fees on local and wireless
telephone customers. In Canada, a similar fee for service structure is
regulated by the federal Canadian Radio Television and
Telecommunications Commission (CRTC).
Depending on the location, counties and cities may also levy a fee,
which may be in addition to, or in lieu of, the federal fee. The fees
are collected by local telephone and wireless carriers through monthly
surcharges on customer telephone bills. The collected fees are
9-1-1 administrative bodies, which may be statewide 9-1-1
boards, state public utility commissions, state revenue departments,
9-1-1 agencies. These agencies disburse the funds to the
Public Safety Answering Points for
9-1-1 purposes as specified in the
Telephone companies in both the
United States and Canada, including
wireless carriers, may be entitled to apply for and receive
reimbursements for costs of their compliance with federal and state
laws requiring that their networks be compatible with
Fees vary widely by locality. They may range from around $.25 per
month to $3.00 per month, per line. The average wireless
in the United States, based on the fees for each state as published by
National Emergency Number Association (NENA), is around $.72.
Monthly fees usually do not vary based on the customer's usage of the
network, though some states do cap the number of lines subject to the
fee for large multi-line businesses.
Emergency service response
9-1-1 dispatcher does not guarantee that emergency services
will actually be able to respond to the call, as they are funded and
operated separately. One egregious example occurred during a budget
Josephine County, Oregon
Josephine County, Oregon in 2013, when no county police were
on duty and no state police were available to respond to a female
caller whose abusive ex-boyfriend was in the process of breaking into
her apartment. After the caller spent ten minutes on the phone with
the dispatcher, the ex-boyfriend succeeded in breaking in and raping
In 2013, the next-of-kin of
Detroit murder victim Stacey Hightower
sued the city for its 90-minute
9-1-1 response time. For Robert
Poff, a patient experiencing problems breathing, a twenty-minute delay
in summoning emergency medical aid proved fatal. Police emergency
response times in the bankrupt city in 2013 were typically fifty
minutes to one hour, and ambulance response times at least
twelve to twenty minutes.
Problems with 9-1-1
In the U.S., some states have rules requiring that every landline
telephone that can access the network be able to dial 9-1-1,
regardless of any reason that normal service may have been
disconnected (including non-payment). (This only applies to states
with a Do Not Disconnect policy in place.)
Telephone companies in
those states must provide a "soft" or "warm" dial tone service;
details can be found at FCC. On wired (land line) phones, this
usually is accomplished by a "soft" dial tone, which sounds normal but
will allow only emergency calls. Often, an unused and unpublished
phone number will be issued to the line so that it will work properly.
With regard to mobile phones, the rules require carriers to connect
9-1-1 calls from any mobile phone, regardless of whether that phone is
currently active. Similar rules for inactive telephones apply in
When a cellular phone is deactivated, the phone number is often
recycled to a new user, or to a new phone for the same user. The
deactivated cell phone will still complete a
9-1-1 call (if it has
battery power) but the
9-1-1 operator will see a specialized number
indicating the cell phone has been deactivated. It is usually
represented with an area code of (911)-xxx-xxxx. If
the call is disconnected, the
9-1-1 operator will not be able to
connect to the original caller. Also because the cell phone is no
longer activated, the
9-1-1 operator is often unable to get Phase II
About 70 percent of
9-1-1 calls came from cell phones in 2014, and
finding out where the calls came from required triangulation. A USA
Today study showed that where information was compiled on the subject,
many of the calls from cell phones did not include information
allowing the caller to be located. Chances of getting as close as 100
feet were higher in areas with more towers. But if a call was made
from a large building, even that would not be enough to precisely
locate the caller. New federal rules, which service providers helped
with, require location information for 40 percent of calls by 2017 and
80 percent by 2021.
As recently as April 21, 2016, an unidentified caller dialing
report the death of the musical artist Prince still needed to provide
9-1-1 dispatcher with the physical address of the building in
which the musician had died because the dispatcher had no other means
to determine the location of the caller's cell phone. The caller was
asked to locate a piece of mail with the building's address so that
emergency responders could be sent.
Main article: Voice over IP
9-1-1 is dialed from a commercial Voice over
(VoIP) service, depending on how the provider handles such calls, the
call may not go anywhere at all, or it may go to a non-emergency
number at the public safety answering point associated with the
billing or service address of the caller. Because a VoIP adapter
can be plugged into any broadband internet connection, a caller could
actually be hundreds or even thousands of miles away from home, yet if
the call goes to an answering point at all, it would be the one
associated with the caller's address and not the actual location of
the call. It may never be possible to reliably and accurately identify
the location of a VoIP user, even if a GPS receiver is installed in
the VoIP adapter, since such phones are normally used indoors, and
thus may be unable to get a signal.
In March 2005, commercial
Internet telephony provider
Vonage was sued
by the Texas Attorney General, who alleged that their website and
other sales and service documentation did not make clear enough that
Vonage's provision of
9-1-1 service was not done in the traditional
manner. In May 2005, the FCC issued an order requiring VoIP providers
9-1-1 service to all their subscribers within 120 days of the
order being published. The order set off anxiety among many VoIP
providers, who felt it will be too expensive and require them to adopt
solutions that won't support future VoIP products. In
Canada, the federal regulators have required
providers (ISPs) to provide an equivalent service to the conventional
PSAPs, but even these encounter problems with caller location, since
their databases rely on company billing addresses.
In May 2010, most VoIP users who dial
9-1-1 are connected to a call
center owned by their telephone company, or contracted by them. The
operators are most often not trained emergency service providers, and
are only there to do their best to connect the caller to the
appropriate emergency service. If the call center is able to determine
the location of the emergency they try to transfer the caller to the
appropriate PSAP. Most often the caller ends up being directed to a
PSAP in the general area of the emergency. A 9-1-1
operator at that PSAP must then determine the location of the
emergency, and either send help directly, or transfer the caller to
the appropriate emergency service.
VoIP services operating in Canada are required to provide 9-1-1
emergency service. In April 2008, an 18-month-old boy in Calgary,
Alberta died after a
Toronto VoIP provider's
9-1-1 operator had an
ambulance dispatched to the address of the family's previous abode in
Main article: Swatting
Federal Bureau of Investigation
Federal Bureau of Investigation has warned of an increase in
deliberate false alarms in which a false origin is displayed on calls
to emergency services to send SWAT teams or heavily armed police to
unsuspecting citizens' doorsteps.
Voice over IP
Voice over IP (VoIP) has
contributed greatly to the problem by making call origin more
difficult to determine quickly and reliably.
In California, state governor
Jerry Brown signed legislation imposing
liability for the full cost of these false alarms, which can reach
$10,000 or more per incident.
Emergencies across jurisdictions
When a caller dials 9-1-1, the call is routed to the local public
safety answering point. However, if the caller is reporting an
emergency in another jurisdiction, the dispatchers may or may not know
how to contact the proper authorities. The publicly posted phone
numbers for most police departments in the U.S. are non-emergency
numbers that often specifically instruct callers to dial
9-1-1 in case
of emergency, which does not resolve the issue for callers outside of
the jurisdiction. In the age of both commercial and personal high
Internet communications, this issue is becoming an increasing
NENA has developed the North American
9-1-1 Resource Database which
includes the National PSAP Registry. PSAPs can query this database to
obtain emergency contact information of a PSAP in another county or
state when it receives a call involving another jurisdiction. Online
access to this database is provided at no charge for authorized local
In the 919 area code, including
Raleigh, North Carolina
Raleigh, North Carolina and
surrounding communities, a second area code (984) was added using an
overlay plan in 2011. Starting in March 2012, people making calls from
the 919 area code had to dial the entire number including area code
even for local calls, and many people started with 9-1-1, realized
their mistake, and disconnected. Three months after the change, police
in Wake County were responding to six times as many "hang-ups", all of
which required a response. This response could be a call-back from the
dispatcher (slowing down the ability to respond to actual
emergencies), or if that did not get a result, a visit from the
police. A supervisor recommended that people remain on the line and
explain the mistake. For all of 2012, the number of hang-ups
in Wake County was nearly three times what it had been before the
switch; over 30,000 police responses resulted. In 2014, hang-up
calls remained high, at about four times the rate from before.
PBX systems requiring a "9" to reach an outside line and a "1" used to
indicate an area code can be a problem. If the telephone buttons don't
take input correctly or the caller accidentally presses a button
multiple times, the caller might misdial 9-
9-1-1 (rather than 9-1). If
so, the first 9 connects to the outside network, and then a
Making calls public
News programs and such shows as
Rescue 911 have broadcast actual calls
Tom Patton introduced a bill in 2009 which would have
banned the broadcasting of
9-1-1 calls, requiring the use of
transcripts instead. Patton believed that people would be reluctant to
make calls because of possible retaliation or threats against those
who called. He intended to seek proof of this idea to satisfy those
who did not believe him, or that broadcasting
9-1-1 calls hurt
investigations. The Ohio Fraternal Order of Police supported the bill
because broadcasts of
9-1-1 calls have been "sensationalized".
Ohio Association of Broadcasters director Chris Merritt said the
government should not have the right to decide how public records were
used. Other opponents of such a ban point out that recordings hold
dispatchers accountable and show when they are not doing their jobs
properly, in a way transcripts cannot.
A bill signed by
Bob Riley on April 27, 2010,
requires a court order before recordings can be made public. Alaska,
Florida, Kentucky, and
Wisconsin also had bills banning the
broadcasts. Mississippi, Missouri, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and
Wyoming already banned the broadcasts.
In April 2011, the
Tennessee Senate passed a bill banning broadcasts
of calls unless the caller gave permission.
North Carolina law defines
9-1-1 recordings as public records, but an
exception allows officials to release either transcripts or distorted
Criminal justice portal
3-1-1, non-emergency number
911 Tapping Protocol
Dial 1119, a 1950 MGM feature film that portrays "1119" as a police
Emergency Medical Dispatcher
Emergency telephone number
In case of emergency
Next Generation 9-1-1
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Look up 911 in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.
9-1-1 Services Guide
Federal Communications Commission
Federal Communications Commission (FCC)
How to Use
9-1-1 from KidsHealth
Emergency Numbers Around the World from 911dispatch.com
Emergency medical services
Emergency medical services around the world
Emergency medical services
Emergency medical services by country
Paramedics by country
Emergency telephone numbers
110 (Iran; Police)
111 (New Zealand)
112 (EU and various others)
119 (parts of Asia and Jamaica)
911 (North America E-911 system, Philippines)
999 (UK a