Southern Oregon Dispatchers Celebrate 50 Years Of 911 Calls

Dispatchers across the United States are celebrating 50 years of helping people during the scariest moments of their lives.

Posted: Feb 16, 2018 5:41 PM

MEDFORD, Ore. -- Dispatchers across the United States are celebrating 50 years of helping people during the scariest moments of their lives. The first 911 call was made in 1968. It wasn't until 1957 that the push came for a nationwide American emergency phone number. That's when the National Association of Fire Chiefs recommended a single number be used for reporting fires. 10 years later, the Federal Communications Commission and AT&T agreed on a number they said was simple, easy to remember and dialed easily.

Johnna Pellam, Performance Manager with Emergency Communications of Southern Oregon, said things have changed a lot over the last 50 years.

"That first 911 call placed was answered with a simple 'Hello,'" Pellam said.

Now, dispatchers answer the phone with a question, "911, what is the address of your emergency?"

Pellam said that is the most important piece of information a dispatcher can get from someone, as well as a number they can be reached at if the call drops.

"Location is a must especially with 80 percent of phone calls now being wireless, they're not going to give us that perfect address like the 20 percent of the 911 calls we get coming from home phones," Pellam said.

Dispatchers at ECSO answer about 1,200 calls on any given day. Pellam said they're not all 911 calls.

"Last year we answered or processed 441,444 phone calls and 113,000 of those were not 911 calls," Pellam said.

She said it's important for parents to teach kids to memorize their address and nearby landmarks in case they ever need to call 911.

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