The idea of a three digit number to be used to contact emergency services began in Great Britain in 1937. Since that time other countries have adopted this method using various two, three or four digit numbers. The numbers 9-1-1 have been designated for this purpose in the United States and Canada. In 1968, the American Telephone and Telegraph Company announced that within its service areas the number 9-1-1 would be reserved for use to contact emergency services. The first 9-1-1 call in the United States was made in Haleyville, Alabama in 1968.
In New Jersey, Atlantic City is credited as the first city to provide 9-1-1 service beginning in 1972. In 1976, a New Jersey Legislative study commission recommended that all municipalities provide access to emergency services through 9-1-1. The first countywide 9-1-1 system was established in Hunterdon County in 1977.
For several years, public safety officials, legislators and private industry worked together to establish a statewide 9-1-1 system in New Jersey. As a result of the work of many studies and committees, New Jersey passed a State 9-1-1 Law in 1989 (P.L.1989, c3 N.J.S.A. 52:17c-1). This law required the implementation of a statewide enhanced 9-1-1 system and established the New Jersey 9-1-1 Commission and the Office of Emergency Telecommunications Services (OETS). Following passage of this law, regulations, requirements and standards were established for all aspects of New Jersey's 9-1-1 enhanced emergency telephone system.
Once the rules and standards were established, OETS and the 9-1-1 Commission worked with the counties and municipalities to establish 9-1-1 centers to meet the needs of the citizens of New Jersey and visitors to our state. It took many years but in 1995 the system was completed and enhanced 9-1-1 was available everywhere in New Jersey. When people began using cell phones, the 9-1-1 system was not originally designed for this type of service. This was a nationwide problem. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) made rules and standards to address the problems. OETS had to work to establish a system that would allow cell phone callers to contact 9-1-1 and to alert the 9-1-1 Public Safety Telecommunicators as to the general location of the caller.
As telecommunications technology advances, the 9-1-1 system has to keep pace with it. Many organizations work diligently to keep the system upgraded and improved to provide everyone with the best possible help during an emergency.