TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: Re: Internet Phone Companies May Cut Off Customers

Re: Internet Phone Companies May Cut Off Customers

Paul Coxwell (
Sat, 27 Aug 2005 23:08:52 +0100

> Sometime between my freshman year in high school (1984-5) and my
> junior year (1986-7), I did a piece for the high school paper about
> Cuyahoga County, Ohio's new 9-1-1 system (not Enhanced 9-1-1, mind
> you, just 9-1-1).

> Cuyahoga County is one of the largest counties in Ohio (second largest
> IIRC), and includes Cleveland, the 25th largest city in the USA.

> I thought it was a godsend. The South Euclid Police Department's
> number was 216-381-1234 and our home phone number was
> 216-381-1231. I'd gotten tired of taking emergency calls for them. :)

Back in the early 1960s my mother and her friend ran a little diner in
north London, with the telephone number LABurnham 1122. She said they
frequently took calls intended for a rather large company which had
the number LADbroke 1122. It just doesn't pay to have some numbers!

> [TELECOM Digest Editor's Note: Also see the news report in this issue
> from Reuters which stated that several VOIP carriers, including
> AT&T, have filed an emergency request for a further extension of time
> from FCC.

> Like yourself, I do not know how people managed to get by from the
> start of dial or automated telephony until (in most communities) the
> advent of 911 back around the early/middle 1980's ... Does anyone
> remember when the standard that AT&T set up for the operating
> companies called for police emergency to be (prefix)-1313 or
> (prefix)-2121 and fire emergencies to be (prefix)-2131. In large
> cities such as Chicago, where there were many exchanges and calls
> were routed automatically through internal telco switches they often
> times used POLice-1313 and FIRe-1313. In cases where there were
> two separate and distinct communities (each with own PD or FD) but
> sharing one phone exchange, where one community was '2121' and '2131'
> the other community would be '2181' and '2191' for police and
> fire respectively.

One of the few firsts we Brits can claim over America was the adoption
of our 999 emergency number, which started in the 1930s and was in
fairly widespread use in dial areas by the 1950s. Under the U.K.
system at that time, 999 calls were handled by normal GPO operators --
In fact in most places they were the same operators who took regular
"0" (later "100") assistance calls.

On the standard cord boards of the day, the emergency trunks had red
call lights over each jack in place of the usual white ones, and every
incoming 999 call also operated a klaxon and a large red light atop
the boards or on the wall until the trunk was answered. If was then
entirely up to the operator to complete the call to the appropriate
police, fire, or ambulance department. In many cases, she had
dedicated jacks with direct outgoing trunks to each of the major
emergency stations for the area to allow the call to be completed as
quickly as possible.

Despite the 999 system, there was, however, still a widely adopted
convention that the regular number for the police should use 2222.
The legacy of this can still be seen in many local police numbers
today, e.g. the general (non-emergency) number for my area is 402222.
(These days a local number is often routed to a police HQ in a distant
town, but that's another story).

The convention also spilled over to companies with large PBX systems,
where they had a security officer (or some other person in charge of
any emergency situation on the premises) and extension 222 was
assigned for emergencies.

Of course, the most famous British police number (excluding 999)
didn't follow this convention. For many years the general number for
Scotland Yard, Metropolitan Police HQ in London, was WHItehall 1212.


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