Halton Region marks 38th anniversary of first 9-1-1 call


Published November 16, 2023 at 10:26 am


November 15 marked the 38th anniversary of the 9-1-1 emergency line in Halton Region, a moment that has led to thousands of lives saved and crimes averted.

“We are proud to celebrate 38 years of our lifesaving Emergency Reporting system since it was introduced to Halton residents in 1985,” Halton Police said on social media. “Join us in thanking our dedicated first responders who work tirelessly around the clock to ensure our safety.”

The first known use of a national emergency telephone number began in Britain in 1937-38 using the number 999, which continues to this day. The first 9-1-1 service in the USA was established in Alabama, with the first call placed in 1968. In Canada, 9-1-1 service was adopted in 1972, with the first 911 call taking place in 1974 in London.

The rollout to Halton did not happen for another 11 years, with the first 9-1-1 call made by Halton Chairman Peter Pomeroy on November 15, 1985.

Halton Region Chair Peter Pomeroy (with Halton Police Chief James Harding) makes the first 9-1-1 call in Halton on November 15, 1985

Canada was the first North American city to use a central emergency number, however, with Winnipeg adopting the British 999 prefix in 1959 before eventually switching to 9-1-1.

The 9-1-1 number was agreed upon because it was easy to use, especially with the rotary telephones of the day. The middle ‘1’ also worked well with the phone systems of the time, which already used 4-1-1 (directory assistance) and 6-1-1 (technical difficulties).

Conversion to 9-1-1 in Canada began in 1972, and as of 2018 virtually all areas – except for parts of Nunavut – are using 9-1-1. Neighbouring Northwest Territories launched the service territory-wide in 2019, with the ability to receive service in all 11 official languages.

Mexico switched its emergency phone number from 066 to 9-1-1 in 2016 and 2017.

Enhanced 9-1-1

Enhanced 9-1-1, which automatically gives the dispatcher the caller’s location, is now available in most North American jurisdictions.

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