Department of Public Safety Communications

CONTACT INFORMATION: FOR EMERGENCIES CALL 9-1-1! (From outside of Fairfax County call 703-691-2233) or To Report a Non-Emergency Incident Call 703-691-2131.
703-691-2131 TTY 711 (See Contacts Page for Administrative Listings)
4890 Alliance Drive, Fairfax, VA 22030
Scott Brillman

A History of Public Safety Communications and 9-1-1

For most Americans, "9-1-1" is synonymous with a call for help to local police, fire and rescue and medical emergency services. But the road to establishing a universal system for seeking—and delivering—emergency services has been long, both around the world and here in Fairfax County.

Here is a brief history of the evolution of 9-1-1 and Public Safety Communications:

Timeline of 9-1-1 history

1937: The concept of 9-1-1 is introduced in the United Kingdom using the number 999. U.S. military personnel learn about the concept while serving in the U.K. during World War II.

1957: The International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC), now headquartered in Fairfax County, petitions the Federal Communications Commission to establish a three-digit universal emergency services number in the United States.

1958: The FCC reserves 9-1-1 for use by any jurisdiction electing to establish a three-digit emergency number to call for police, fire and rescue or emergency medical services.

1967: The President's Commission on Law Enforcement and Administration of Justice recommends establishing a single number nationwide for reporting emergency situations-to replace different numbers used for each type of emergency.

1967: The FCC meets with the American Telephone and Telegraph Company (AT&T) to find a means to quickly implement a universal emergency services number.

1968: AT&T announces plans to establish 9-1-1 as the emergency code throughout the United States. They choose 9-1-1 because it's brief, easy to remember and can be dialed quickly. It's also never been authorized as an office code, area code or service code.

1968: On February 16, Senator Rankin Fite completes the first 9-1-1 call made in the United States from Haleyville, Alabama.

1973: The White House Office of Telecommunications issues a national policy statement recognizing the benefits of 9-1-1, encouraging the nationwide adoption of 9-1-1 and providing for the establishment of a Federal Information Center to assist units of government in planning and implementation.

1981: Fairfax County adopts 9-1-1 as its emergency services number.

1991: Congress designates the second week in April as National Public Safety Telecommunications week to recognize 9-1-1 personnel who help save countless lives every day by dispatching law enforcement, fire and rescue and emergency medical services personnel.

2008: An act of Congress designates April as National 9-1-1 Education Month—a time for education on the importance of 9-1-1 to public safety.

2009: About 96 percent of the geographic United States is covered by some type of 9-1-1.


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