Today, Friday 30 June, marks the 80th anniversary of the 999 emergency number.
The 999 number was first introduced in London in 1937 and was the world’s first emergency number.
The first ever 999 call was made right in London on 30 June 1937, and was the first of its kind in the world. It was introduced following a review of a fire on Wimpole Street in November 1935 which sadly killed 5 women.
Initially the 999 scheme only covered a 12-mile radius around Oxford Circus, and came with the advice that public should only use it in ongoing emergency “for instance, the man in the flat next to yours is murdering his wife or you have seen a heavily masked cat burglar peering round the stack pipe of the local bank building.”
In the first week of service 1,336 calls were made. Today the 999 system in the UK handles in excess of half a million calls in the same 7 day period!
The system was rolled out to major cities after the Second World War and by 1976 to the whole of the UK. In 1993 the 112 number was introduced alongside 999 to provide a single number for contacting the emergency services throughout Europe.
Calling 999 today
In order that emergency services can provide the help to people that most need it, it’s important that the 999 service is used appropriately.
The advice is simple – if it’s not an emergency, don’t ring 999. A non-emergency number for the NHS is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year which is 111. NHS 111 is for getting medical help fast when it’s not life-threatening, and is free to call from landlines and mobile phones.