FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE February 12, 2018
PRINCE WILLIAM COUNTY, VIRGINIA . . . Feb. 16, 2018 marks the 50th anniversary of 911 in the United States. The first call was made 50 years ago today in Haleyville, Ala. Although a similar three-digit system (999) had existed in the United Kingdom since 1938, this event introduced 911 service in the United States.
In Prince William County, the Commonwealth Telephone Company became the first telephone company in Virginia to install 911, with service going live on Dec. 2, 1968. At that time 911 was only for fire and rescue services. This was before the Prince William County Police Department was established, and the Sheriff's Office and town police departments retained their own seven-digit telephone numbers for emergencies. The 911 number was available to those with telephone exchanges 221, 361, 368, 491, 494, 594, 670 and 875. The calls were routed to the Prince William County Central Fire Alarm Office in what was then the town of Manassas, where one person was on duty at any given time to serve as both call-taker and radio dispatcher.
As more of the population came to depend on 911 services there was a growing need for faster, more accurate responses. From the creation of wireless phones to mobile phones, and now text-to-911, the 911 system continues to evolve to meet the needs of our community. Next Generation 911 is an emerging Internet Protocol-based system enabling voice and multimedia communications between a 911 caller, the 911 Center, and field responders.
Today, the Prince William County Office of Public Safety Communications – administered jointly by the Department of Fire & Rescue and the Police Department – has more than 100 personnel who answer 911, and dispatch fire and rescue services for the county and cities of Manassas and Manassas Park, as well as police services for the county and its towns. Emergency medical care has a virtual zero-response time because the telecommunicators are trained to provide immediate medical instructions over the phone before field responders arrive.
Police Captain Alfred Miller, director of the County's Office of Public Safety Communications, said, "Protecting life and property and ensuring safety are important responsibilities of local government. The ability of all persons to summon help quickly in an emergency is essential to the community's well-being. The 911 emergency phone system and consolidated call-taking and dispatching increases public confidence and helps provide efficient emergency services with greater capabilities and cost savings to the public."