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History of 911

In 1967 a US Presidential Commission on Law Enforcement and Administration recommended that a single universal telephone number be set aside and used whenever practical for reporting an emergency. In 1968 the Bell System announced that the three-digit number 911 would be reserved for that purpose. In 1973, the White House Office on Telecommunications adopted a policy supporting nationwide use of 911 Service, but left the responsibility for funding, planning implementation, and providing service with local governments.

The first Basic 911 system was installed in Hallettsville, Alabama on January 10, 1968. In Massachusetts, Springfield, Boston and Newton were among the first major cities to use Basic 911 systems.

Basic 911 systems route calls based on calling telephone number, therein lays the inherent weakness and the reason behind the push to enhanced systems. In Massachusetts there are 351 municipalities; the municipal boundaries and telephone exchanges boundaries exactly match in only 10 communities. Therefore when a city or town decided to use the Basic 911 there are instances when calls are routed to a neighboring location.

With the advent of Enhanced 911 that problem disappears because the software of the system is address driven and not telephone number driven. All cities and towns of the Commonwealth were required to provide complete street and number range information for their particular serving area. This information is the basis for routing emergency calls to the proper Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP).

Address driven routing is only one of the features of the improvements of the Enhanced 911. This system has the capability of communicating through TTY for the deaf and hard of hearing. Each PSAP has it's own emergency power supply.

The statewide system designed for Massachusetts uses state of the art telecommunications and will make Massachusetts a national leader in emergency telecommunications.

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