911 Emergency Call Facts
911 Emergency Call Facts

40 Interesting Facts about 911 Emergency Calls

Karin Lehnardt
By Karin Lehnardt, Senior Writer
Published June 28, 2017
  • Over 70% of 911 calls in the United States are placed from wireless phones, and the rate is increasing.[3]
  • The telephone number 911 is for emergency calls in North America. To use it for any other type of calls, such as a prank call, could be considered a crime.[1]
  • Some Public Safety Answering Points (PSAPs) report that 15%–20% of incoming 911 calls are non-emergencies. An emergency is a life-threatening situation where every second counts, such as a heart attack, uncontrolled asthma attack, child birth in progress, any event involving large amounts of blood, uncontrolled fire, a life-threatening event such as a knife fight, an armed robbery in progress, or a serious car accident (not a fender bender).[4]
  • In 2006, 5-year-old Robert Turner called 911 when his mother collapsed from heart problems. The call taker thought he was making a prank call and told the little boy that she would send help and hung up. The boy waited three hours and, with his mother still unconscious, called 911 again. This time, a different call taker told the boy that he would get in trouble if he kept playing around. Scared, the boy hung up. His mom died.[8]
  • Dialing 911 quickly connects a caller to a nearby Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP) dispatcher who is trained to route a call to local emergency medical, fire, and law enforcement agencies.[11]
  • Interesting 911 Dispatcher Facts
    Some dispatchers may suffer from critical incident stress syndrome
  • Some 911 dispatchers eventually suffer from critical incident stress syndrome (CISS), which is similar to PTSD. It affects people who are constantly close to and intricately involved in other people’s massive crises and tragedies. Symptoms include nightmares, severe anxiety, and an inability to cope with stressful situations in daily life.[8]
  • While North America uses 911 as an emergency number, other countries dial 999. These countries include the United Kingdom, Ireland, Poland, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Macau, Bahrain, Qatar, Bangladesh, Botswana, Ghana, Kenya, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Mauritius, Singapore, Zimbabwe, Kingdom of Swaziland, and Trinidad and Tobago.[10]
  • For all members of the European Union and several other countries, 112 is an emergency number that can be dialed for free of charge. In some countries, older emergency numbers still are available; for example, in the U.K, both its traditional emergency number 999 and 112 connect to an emergency center. Additionally, in the United States some carriers, such as AT&T, will direct the number 112 to 911.[10]
  • If a cell phone has been barred from making outgoing calls (e.g., not paying a bill), often emergency calls can still be made.[7]
  • The world’s oldest emergency phone number is the U.K’s 999 number that was introduced on June 30, 1937. It was implemented after a call to the fire brigade was held in a queue with the telephone company. The delay cost five women their lives in the fire.[15]
  • The first arrest due to an emergency call happened on July 8, 1937, at 4:20 a.m. when the wife of John Stanley Beard dialed 999 to report a burglar outside her home in England. The burglar, 24-year-old Thomas Duffys, was arrested.[15]
  • Random 911 Emergency Call Facts
    Over 70% of 911 calls are from cell phones
  • For many Americans, the ability to call 911 is the primary reason they own a cell phone.[11]
  • An early precursor to the 911 number in North America debuted in December 1957 when the California Highway Patrol created a traffic emergency number, Zenith 1-2000.[8]
  • North America’s first emergency telephone number, 999, was first introduced in Winnipeg, Canada. There were originally eight women Emergency Telephone Operators. The budget was too small to pay men ($200 vs. $345/month). Canada converted to 911 in 1972.[8]
  • The first-ever 911 call in the United States happened on February 16, 1968, in Haleyville, Alabama. It wasn’t until 1999 that Congress directed the FCC to make 911 the universal emergency number for the United States for all telephone services.[2]
  • In 1996, a teenager in Sweden hacked into a Southern Bell computer system. He created a computer code that made simultaneous 911 calls to several counties in Florida. He managed to jam several 911 switches.[11]
  • Known as the “The City Where 911 Began,” Haleyville, Alabama, holds a 911 festival every year that honors all police, fire, and emergency personnel.[2]
  • The phone used to answer the first 911 call in the United States is in a museum in Haleyville, Alabama. A duplicate is still used at the police station there.[2]
  • Both Puyallup, Washington, and Nome, Alaska, claim to be the first 911 center west of the Mississippi. Nome reportedly implemented their 911 system in February 1968. Puyallup implemented their system later that year.[8]
  • A woman in Deltona, Florida, was arrested after she called 911 four times to complain about a nail technician. Even with a police deputy sitting next to her, she still called 911 to complain that her nails were too short.[9]
  • Weird 911 Emergency Call Facts
    A woman called 911 to complain her nails were too short

  • The first California 911 system was installed in the city of Gustine in Merced County in March 1970. The first Texas 911 system was installed in Odessa a month later.[8]
  • Initially, neither the FCC nor Congress wanted any jurisdiction over 911 or its operation, most likely because they did not want to fund the 911 system. However, on October 26, 1999, President Bill Clinton signed Senate Bill 800, which directed the FCC to make 911 the nationwide emergency telephone number.[6]
  • There is considerable debate as to why 911 was chosen as an emergency number. It was probably based on several factors, including the precedent of Britain using a three-digit emergency number, the ease of dialing two “ones” on a rotary dial phone, and the technology at the time.[6]
  • Initially, the Independent Telephone Association criticized AT&T for developing a 911 system. They objected because the Bell system (AT&T) did not consult various police organizations, independent telephone companies, and other companies. However, AT&T claims that the 911 system was supported by the FCC, the House, and President Johnson.[6]
  • Interesting September 11 Fact
    Emergency call systems were overloaded on September 11 (danhowl / iStock)
  • On September 11, 2001, so many people in the NYC area called 911 simultaneously about the planes flying into the World Trade Center that the local networks crashed. No calls could go through because the switches couldn’t handle the overwhelming traffic.[11]
  • The number 911 was developed by AT&T as a public service to improve emergency communications. There is some speculation that AT&T was motivated to create 911 in order to divert millions of emergency telephone calls (and reduce costs) that were made to its “0” operators.[6]
  • In January 1968, AT&T announced their designation of 911 as a universal emergency number. However, it initially applied to only the Bell companies and not other independent phone companies.[5]
  • In most areas, households and businesses pay a small monthly fee for 911 service on their phone bill. There is no charge for calling 911, though any EMS or ambulances dispatched through 911 may charge for taking someone to the hospital. That is a separate charge, not a 911 charge.[11]
  • A person should not call 911 for any of the following: 1) for information, 2) for directory assistance, 3) just to talk, 4) paying for traffic tickets, 5) for a pet emergency, or 6) as a prank.[1]
  • If someone calls 911 by mistake, he or she should not hang up. Rather they should let the dispatcher know what happened so they know there really isn’t an emergency.[1]
  • Texting 911 is not available in most areas, though the 911 industry is working with wireless carriers and the FCC to make texting 911 widespread. If texting 911 is available in a person’s area, remember the phrase “Call when you can, text when you can’t,” which means texting should be used only when a voice call is impossible.[7]
  • Over 240 million calls are made to 911 in the U.S. each year.[3]
  • 911 Emergency Call Facts
    Over 240 million calls are made to 911 in the U.S. each year

  • Enhanced 911, or E 911, is a system that routes an emergency call to the appropriate 911 answering point, or PSAP, for the caller’s location AND automatically displays the callers phone number and address. In most cases, the phone number and location information is available from cell phones.[1]
  • Senator John McCain’s brother, Joe McCain, allegedly called 911 wanting to know why traffic was backed up on his side of the street and not the other side and then hung up. After the 911 dispatcher called and left a message on his machine indicating that abusing 911 could be a criminal matter, McCain called back and complained about the message. The officer replied: “911 is for emergencies only, not just because you’re sitting in traffic.”[9]
  • A 58-year-old Florida woman was accused of using 911 twice to solicit sex. When an officer initially arrived, she said there was no emergency and instead grabbed the officer’s arm and rubbed his chest. Police left her with a warning, but when she later made another call, she was promptly arrested.[12]
  • In 2012, Joshua Basso of Dover, Florida, allegedly dialed 911 repeatedly and requested female officers to come to his house to have sex with him. That same year, Clyde Hobbs called 911 in Oklahoma at least 17 times in one day in order to talk dirty to female officers.[14]
  • In 2012, Orlando police released 911 transcripts of calls made by an angry restaurant manager who found two patrons having sex on an outside table in front of horrified parents and children. Ultimately, the couple avoided arrest because none of the parents wanted to make a statement.[13]
  • Interesting SWAT Team Fact
    "Swatting" is never a good idea
  • “Swatting,” or calling 911 to get the SWAT team to someone’s house for a bogus crime, is dangerous and can get the prank caller arrested.[8]
  • A man called 911 to complain that he was stuck in a hot tub. He requested some hot chocolate, marshmallows, and a hug.[9]
  • Technically it isn’t possible to hack into the national 911 network sincere there is no national 911 network. All networks are local networks. While it is possible to disable a local network, no one has ever gotten into the computers at a Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP).[8]

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