30 years ago, 911 system came to Maricopa County

Posted at 4:19 PM, Sep 09, 2015
and last updated 2015-09-09 19:19:41-04

Imagine not being able to get assistance in a state of emergency by calling 911.

This was a reality for Maricopa residents who had to dial separate seven-digit numbers for help until thirty years ago when the Maricopa Association of Governments (MAG) brought the service to the Valley. Now citizens are able to get help from police and fire departments as easily as dialing 9-1-1.

“There were 2.8 million calls answered in the Maricopa region last year by more than 1,000 people in 911 centers throughout the Valley,” said Scottsdale Mayor W.J. “Jim” Lane, who chairs the MAG Regional Council, in a prepared statement.

In May 1983, Gov. Bruce Babbitt signed Senate Bill 1358, which formed the Emergency Telecommunications Service Revolving Fund, better known as the 911 fund, and on Sept. 9, 1985, the system began.

Maricopa had 1.8 million people with 1.1 million telephone access lines in 1985. After a year with the 911, 40 percent of calls answered at the Phoenix Police Department came in through the system.

In 2015, the region now has more than 4 million people and 4.15 million access lines.

The idea of a universal emergency contact number started in England in 1937 and came over to the United States in 1967. MAG 9-1-1 Technical Advisory Committee was formed in 1978 and approached the Arizona Corporation Commission (ACC) for funding. Not until 1981 did the money for equipment become available when ACC was able to secure $4.8 million in funds left over from an earlier Mountain Bell refund case.

“Today, we can get emergency help at any time, on almost any type of device,” said Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton, who serves as vice chair of MAG, in a prepared statement “The system continues to evolve, and about 80 percent of 911 calls now come from cell phones. Life-saving help is truly always at our fingertips.”