Happy Birthday to the ‘999’ system

Ever wondered how the ‘999’ Emergency telephone system came about? Well it’s the 82nd anniversary of the World’s first emergency system, today Sunday 30th June.  Here is a video illustrating the start of the service in 1937:

It first saw service in the London area. The system was introduced following a fire in a house in Wimpole Street on 10 November 1935, in which five women were tragically killed. A neighbour attempted to telephone the fire brigade and was so outraged at being held in a queue by the Welbeck telephone exchange that he wrote a letter to the Times Newspaper Editor, which prompted a government inquiry.

The initial scheme covered a twelve mile radius around Oxford Circus in London and the public were advised only to use it in ongoing emergency if  “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”.  The first arrest for burglary took place a week later and the scheme was extended to major cities after World War II and then to the whole UK in 1976.

One of our key safety messages that we share when out and about is “do you know who to call in a coastal emergency?’ Over half the people we speak to unfortunately don’t know to call the Coastguard via ‘999’ if they hear or see a person or animal in danger at the coast.   So, with the Summer already upon us and the increase in people visiting the coast we are asking everyone to dial ‘999’ straight away if they are in any doubt whatsoever that someone or an animal is in difficulty in the water at the coast.