Origins Of 911
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Emergency Notification Systems

emergency alert systems This section of our technical library presents information and documentation relating to Emergency Notification Systems and Disaster Recovery Applications.

Our emergency broadcast and alert service can deliver a large number of phone calls using thousands of digital phone lines simultaneously. Should a snow storm, wild fire or flood hit your area, we can alert your community quickly providing specific instructions if an evacuation is required. This service is available using our emergency broadcasting systems. If a dangerous chemical spill occurs in your community, you can target specific areas to call. If a severe snow storm hits your area, your community can be notified of school closings or event cancellations.

The following article relates to emergency 911 broadcasting systems, specifically 911 history.

The Origins Of 911 (Part 2)

The following is an extract from the article "History Of 911" contained on the website Please visit this site for more 911 related information.

The Good Ole Days

by Thomas B. Norling

Where did it all start? This is hard to define, and much harder to answer. We humans, when we found we were in distress, will call out for help using our voices. Or to put it another way, we humans communicate, whether it's by voice, drums, fire or electrical or electronic means. In so doing, we are letting others know that we need help or other services.

With the advent of the invention of both the telegraph and telephone systems, emergency communication became a very important part of these systems; to a point where our telephone operators became our first real dispatchers and they became known as Central.

These people knew almost every person connected with the system where they worked. They had the knowledge of who to contact for almost any emergency, whether it be fire, police or medical needs. As these telephone systems began to expand, the task of providing this type of service also expanded.

So where did it all start? It started with the local telephone company. [Editor: And that telephone company was in Haleyville, Alabama.]

Who started emergency reporting systems? This can be answered by looking into the history of telephony. There one will find the beginning of most all telephone operations was a need to provide emergency communications. And with this need in mind, the people involved put into operation a telephone system that provided that service. The fact remains that local people formed their own telephone net works, and these companies (or co-ops) became some of the very large telephone companies known today.

Who started emergency reporting systems? Telephone people and telephone co-ops to meet a need.

Why are telephone companies not as much involved with the dispatching operation today? Look again at the history of the telephone industry. But to state that the telephone industry is less-involved would not be a true statement. As we go on into this subject, one will find the telephone industry is very much involved, and will be as long as there is a need for dispatching systems.

Telephone operations are not providing the dispatching and handling of emergency calling today because the ever-expanding companies reached a point where it was much better handled by local dispatching systems who were part of the serving area.

The advent of national toll dialing and the central operator operations made it too much of an undertaking for the telephone system for these very companies to provide this type of service.

The telephone industry set out to develop and put into operation the Emergency Service Dispatch systems and to make the telephone systems function for this service.

When the telephone operations set up for emergency calling systems, what were the major changes made to telephone operations? This question should be divided into a number of answers, for to put it into one lumped answer would not serve to answer what the reader would wish to know. Let us look at some of the major changes that took place, without going into too much detail.

First, equipment changes on the part of the telephone system. The telephone company equipment had to provide the means to hold the originating calling line so the call could be checked should the calling party hang up or be disconnected. This was the same type of service that was provided when local telephone operator provided this service. (Sometimes called CLR holding.)

Second, equipment changes on the part of the telephone system so that the calling party could be rung back when the calling party went back on hook. This feature was limited where party lines were involved but still could be done if and when required. Third, equipment changes to the public telephone (paystation) methods of operation. This did provide a major problem for the telephone companies in that the change required a standard method of operation throughout the country.

(a) The public telephones had to provide dial-tone first. Telephones that required a coin deposit before the call originator would hear dial tone had to he changed to provide dial-tone-first. (b) The public telephones had to be coin-free when dialing service codes and emergency service dispatch. (c) The public telephones had to return any coin deposited when the call originator called emergency service codes.

These changes were a major hardship to both large and small operating telephone companies. Each of these changes involved much development and the need for new methods of handling public telephones and emergency call handling. [Editor: The technology of 911 hasn't changed much in the intervening years.]

Why the dialing code 9-1-1? This is a real hard question to answer and my first response is: Why not?

Everyone has his or her own access code and I have heard most of them. But the truth is that AT&T and USITA had to come up with one for the telephone system--for the total system.

I was an engineer for AECO Gen Tel Labs when I became part of this task force. And believe me, this was no snap; it took much time to resolve. No one wanted to give in, but as time went on, we all came to the same understanding. The access code had to be three digits. The first digit had to be an N digit, meaning it had to be one of the digits 2 through 9. The digit 1 or 0 could not be used. The second and third digits had to be 1.

So the real problem was what was the first digit going to be and the task force set out to resolve this problem.

It came down to the fact that the digit 9 was the easiest to clear for access, because in many systems it was already clear; in others, equipment changes were small. With this, 9-1-1 was selected and work started to make this an access code back as far as the late '50s.

There was one other factor that helped resolve this, and it was the location of this digit on the dial or keypad.

If one had to dial 9-1-1 in the dark, all one had to do was place the finger in the dial, slide the finger from the one position all the way around to the zero position, back up one step and this would be the ninth position or digit 9.

Then the call originator would again place the finger into the 1st position; this would he the digit one--and dial it two times. The outcome would he 9-1-1.

With the keypad, the call originator would locate the lower righthand key position (the # or pound key) and move straight up to the next position, which is the digit 9. Then move the finger so the upper-most left hand side, which is the digit one. With this method, one could easily dial 9-1-1 in the dark.

How did the telephone number and address play a part in emergency reporting systems? From the emergency reporting dispatch center of operation, the answer is self explanatory. This was the means to complete the call-handling.

From the operating telephone company directing the call, it was used to provide the emergency service center with much-needed information.

The telephone companies made use of their automatic number identification used in toll billing to provide the directory number, and with this, the billing address from the billing computer. Backup came from the outside plant records computers to provide additional information where the billing address may have been a post office box. There were other methods used where the originating call came from a telephone service at two or more locations. Here, secondary class marking determined the originating party location.

In any event, an originating party address was found in most applications and forwarded to the emergency service dispatch center.

How did the very early emergency service center receive the information from the operating telephone companies? The voice part of the call was via telephone circuits where as many as were needed were provided to meet the service needs. As to the very early systems, Model 28 and 33 Teletype equipment was used. In time, these were replaced with computer equipment with printers and then CRTs.

This was and is now an on going process. Who knows what the future will bring?

Is there any reason why anyone with telephone service should be denied 911 service today? Being an ex-telephone engineer, I don't like to answer this question. But to be fair to both sides, I can only say No--every telephone user in this country should and could have access to 911 service.. The telephone industry already has developed equipment. The local governments have the means now to provide the services. There can be no real reason to keep people from having access to 91 1

Why has there been little or no published information on how and why the development of emergency dispatch systems? My answer is there has been much documentation on this subject, but one has to know where to look. Many people do not really wish to go into that much detail. The real answer is that the information is out there, but a real demand for this information is not. For those who want this type of documentation, it's there; but it requires real effort to locate it. . .

What do you see in the future of emergency dispatching systems? As an old timer who has designed and helped with the development of these systems, I .see a very big future using computer software and the newer hard ware.

The dispatchers and responders are going to have many new tools. There are many new features where everyone involved will soon have much of the same information at the same time. The need to call up information from the past will also be provided.

I have now provided you, the readers, my input into this subject. I know those involved in the dispatching side know that we old-timers look up to you for the fine job you are doing.