Today marks the 50th anniversary of the 911 emergency system

The first call was completed by Alabama Speaker of the House, Rankin Fite

ByKelsey Walsh and Tom Shine
February 16, 2018, 9:12 PM

— -- Decades ago, if you needed assistance during an emergency you were required to know the number to the nearest police and fire station.

Fifty years later as of today, the process is now a three digit number that most Americans have memorized by heart: 911.

In early 1968, the Federal Communications Commission turned to AT&T and recommended making 911 the universal emergency code for the country. Congress agreed and like that, 911 was born.

The first call was completed by Alabama Speaker of the House, Rankin Fite in Haleyville. Fite read a story by Wall Street Journal regarding the planned emergency system and was curious to see if it worked.

Haleyville, also known as “The City Where 911 Began,” hosts a yearly 911 festival.

According to the National Emergency Number Association (NENA), an estimated 240 million calls are made to 911 in the U.S. each year and 96 percent of the U.S. is covered by the 911 network.

In many areas, 80 percent or more of those calls are from wireless devices.

So, what's next for the familiar set of digits? Those on the front lines of modernizing the decades-old 911 infrastructure say they hope to create a faster and more resilient system.

There will be the ability for users to communicate with 911 via pictures, videos, and text. This will help dispatchers pinpoint an emergency and the correct response.

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