About 240 million Americans dial 911 each year. The emergency number has been around for 50 years and is striving to keep up with the wireless phone age.
Calling and texting in California
The charts below show where the 28.1 million calls to 911 in California in 2017 came from. You can learn more about the statewide emergency notification system at the California Office of Emergency Services website.
Can you text?
Call if you can, text if you cannot. If you want to know if the area where you are has text-to-911 available, you can check with your wireless phone company. You can also search the FCC website for updated information.
If you do send a text message to 911, it is important to include an accurate address or location as quickly as possible. Users will receive a bounce-back message if text-to-911 is not available in their area.
911 response time
The national average response time in minutes (traffic accidents only, 2015)
National average response time by month in minutes
Top five longest response times:
- Wyoming: 35:44
- Vermont: 22: 56
- Montana: 22:34
- North Dakota: 21:30
- Kansas: 21:22
Top five shortest response times:
- Illinois: 6:00
- California: 6:51
- Rhode Island: 7:03
- Connecticut: 7:54
- Massachusetts: 8:33
In rural areas, arrival times are much higher and average about 14 minutes, with about 10 percent of patients waiting nearly 30 minutes, according to researchers at America and Presence Mercy Medical Center in Aurora, Illinois.
50 years of 911
1968: AT&T announces that it will establish the digits 911 as the emergency code throughout the United States.
1968: The first 911 call is made on Feb. 16 in Alabama.
1973: California initiates the first statewide 911 telephone service.
1973: In March, the White Houses Office of Telecommunications encourages the nationwide adoption of 911.
1974: Canada begins to use 911 for emergency dialing.
1976: 911 serves about 17 percent of the United States.
1979: 26 percent of the population has 911 service.
1987: 50 percent of the population is covered by 911 service.
1999: Approximately 96 percent of the country is covered by some type of 911 service.
2011: 29.7 percent of 911 calls are made from wireless phones.
2017: 80 percent of emergency calls are made from wireless phones.
Q: Can I call 911 in another country? Some countries have 911. Check other countries emergency phone numbers on the State Departments list.
Q: What if I accidentally dial 911? Stay on the line and tell the operator it was an accidental call.
Sources: EMS.gov, FCC, NENA.org, National Association of the Deaf, California Governors Office of Emergency Services