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When did 911 service begin here?

Merton Vance

The New Hanover County 911 system officially went into service on May 15, 1982 and has undergone a lot of changes since, said Lynn Lancaster, administrative assistant for the current 911 communications center.

Originally, it was operated from a dispatch center at the old Law Enforcement Center downtown, under the administration of the county sheriff’s office.

It was later split off as a separate county department and in May 2006 the current Public Safety Communications Center went into operation at the former Market Place Mall off South College Road.

That move provided more space, along with major upgrades to the telephone, computer and radio systems.

The center handles dispatching for all emergency services and law enforcement agencies in New Hanover County and gets about 400,000 calls per year.

Back in 1967, a federal commission recommended a single number that could be used nationwide for reporting emergencies.

In 1968, AT&T recommended using 911 because it was easy to remember and dial and was not used for any area codes or other dialing codes at the time.

That year, Haleyville, Ala. became the first city to put a 911 system into operation.

In rural North Carolina, one of the challenges to developing 911 systems was assigning names to rural roads that were identified previously only by secondary road numbers, and assigning street addresses to houses to replace rural postal route box numbers.

Those steps were necessary so that addresses could be linked to computer systems that allow dispatchers to see the location from which a call originates.

Currently, the N.C. 911 Board, a state agency, is working with telephone services to develop additional enhancements to 911 services to better accommodate calls from cellular telephones and take advantage of other improvements in communications technologies.

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