First emer­gency phone line turns 80

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - FRONT PAGE -

LON­DON — The i ntro­duc­tion of the world’s first emer­gency tele­phone num­ber 80 years ago was cel­e­brated on Satur­day by po­lice forces across Bri­tain. Now t he 999 num­ber to alert po­lice, fire, am­bu­lances and coast guards to emer­gen­cies is the best known num­ber in Bri­tain.

In Lon­don, the Metropoli­tan Po­lice, de­scribed how, in its early days at Scot­land Yard, a hand­ful of po­lice of­fi­cers trans­mit­ted emer­gency mes­sages by Morse code.

To­day, the emer­gency ser­vice is run from three high-tech cen­tral­ized com­mu­ni­ca­tions com­plexes in Bow, Hen­don and Lam­beth bor­oughs.

In the early days of the 1930s, just 24 staff mem­bers in the old Vic­to­ria Em­bank­ment head­quar­ters of Scot­land Yard dealt with a cou­ple hun­dred calls a day. The three cen­tral­ized com­plexes now em­ploy more than 2,000 peo­ple who deal with up to 20,000 calls daily.

The sys­tem has been up­graded and re­designed numer­ous times over the decades, lead­ing to the so­phis­ti­cated mul­ti­screen au­to­mated ser­vice that pri­or­i­tizes 999 calls us­ing in­ter­ac­tive satel­lite map­ping, as well as ac­cess to trans­la­tors in 170 lan­guages and spe­cial text numbers for deaf peo­ple.

Po­lice in Bri­tain have long made use of new tech­nol­ogy to help them fight crime. The first case of a crim­i­nal be­ing ar­rested through use of tele­grams was recorded in 1845.

The im­pe­tus for a new, ded­i­cated emer­gency num­ber came af­ter a tragic event in Lon­don in 1935 when five women died in a fire at a Wim­pole Street doc­tor’s house.

A par­lia­men­tary com­mit­tee in­quiry fol­lowed, and rec­om­mended a univer­sal num­ber eas­ily mem­o­rized by the pub­lic and in­stantly rec­og­niz­able to tele­phone op­er­a­tors.

Af­ter 111, 222 and 0000 were re­jected, the num­ber 999 was agreed upon, and thou­sands of tra­di­tional red phone boxes were con­verted to al­low free emer­gency calls start­ing in July 1937.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from China

© PressReader. All rights reserved.