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Emergency 999 calls

Britain’s 999 phone calls are the oldest emergency call  service in the world!  It was launched after a serious fire killed five women in London in 1935. 

The fire started in a doctor’s surgery at 27 Wimpole Street. A neighbour had tried to telephone the fire brigade and was so outraged at being held in a queue by the telephone exchange that he wrote a letter to The Times newspaper.  At the enquiry it was decided that a way was needed to warn operators of important calls and the number 999 was chosen.

A flashing light and horn alerted operators to the emergency call.  The noise was so loud that the people answering the phone would stuff the horn with a tennis ball to muffle the sound!

The 999 service was started in London on June 30, 1937.  The first 999 call was made by a Mrs Beard of Hampstead, and led to 24 year old burglar Thomas Duffy being caught stealing from her house.

In the first week 1,336 emergency calls were made.  Now there are over 30 million a year made!!  Countries using 999 include the United Kingdom, Ireland, Poland, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Macao, Bahrain, Qatar, Bangladesh, Botswana, Ghana, Kenya, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore, and Trinidad and Tobago.