In November 1967, the Federal Communications Commission met with AT&T to find a means of establishing a universal emergency number that could be implemented quickly. In 1968, AT&T announced it would establish the easily dialed (and remembered) digits 9-1-1 as the emergency code throughout the United States.

Congress backed AT&T's proposal and passed legislation allowing use of only the numbers 9-1-1 to create an emergency calling service, thereby making 9-1-1 the standard emergency number nationwide.

On Feb. 16, 1968, at 2 p.m., Speaker of the Alabama House Rankin Fite made the ceremonial first 9-1-1 call from Haleyville City Hall to the local police department. The local telephone company at the time was Alabama Telephone Co. Haleyville's 9-1-1 system is still in operation today.

A few days later, on Feb. 22, 1968, Nome, Alaska implemented 9-1-1 service.

From that small beginning, 9-1-1 technology has become more sophisticated in response to consumer expectations. Each advancement has improved our nation’s ability to get better, more reliable information to first responders so they can do their jobs of saving lives and property.

Waldo County got 9-1-1 in August 2001.

Those who answer 9-1-1 calls are the first "first responders" who provide life-saving instructions to the caller and get help to them as quickly as possible. "We are proud of the advancements to the 9-1-1 system," said Owen Smith, director of the Waldo County Regional Communication Center in a press release. "GPS location on cell phones and mapping play a huge part in getting help to those in emergency situations.

"We are constantly updating our systems and learning new technology," he said. "Coming soon will be the ability to text 9-1-1, though some of us are not looking forward to the possibility of photos and videos!"

Smith noted that even an uncharged/out of service old cell phone can dial 9-1-1. "This is good in an emergency, but not so good if you give your old cell to your kids to play with (we all do)," he said. "Please remove the batteries before they play!"

In other tips, Smith said the public can help responders get assistance to them faster by staying on the line. "Even if it is an accidental call, the dispatcher will check the location and make sure their maps are getting the correct information," he said.

"Know your location, look for box numbers or landmarks around you. Answer the dispatcher’s questions. It seems like they are taking a long time and delaying response, but our protocols really work well and the total call time should be less than two minutes, and that includes dispatching responders."