MOBILE, Ala. (WKRG) — The difference between life and death can be in the hands of a 911 dispatcher. February 16 is the day to mark the milestone in US history of 55 years since the first 911 call in the country was made in Haleyville, Alabama.

“Dispatchers are the first of the first responders,” said Charlie McNichol, the director of Mobile County communications district. “The response time really starts when we answer the phone.”

Since 1968, Alabama has been a trailblazer for 911 dispatch by providing people with the assistance they need in an emergency. As the years passed, Alabama has maintained its leadership by introducing new methods, technology, and training.

Mobile County’s 911 dispatch has made its own strides locally. In 2014, Mobile County became the first in the state to introduce texting to their response system and since then, it has added its own mobile unit so that first responders can interact with people in the field.

The Mobile County communications center handled nearly 290,000 calls in 2022 alone.

According to the director, they want to continue to deliver the best possible service while doing what they can to support the community. 

“We’re kind of that service you don’t think about much until you need it” said McNichol. “So what we want people to know is everyday as administrations and leaders around the state, we are forever trying to improve the service so that when you do call in that time of need we’re able to deliver.”

By the end of 2021, every city in Alabama adopted a new technology network called ANGEN. According to the Alabama 911 board, the service offers the option for texting, has improved call routing, and enables dispatchers to locate callers quicker in order to help people reach safety faster.

Adam Brown, the deputy director for the Alabama 911 board says, this milestone, along with the progress the state continues to make, is a proud moment.

“It’s been amazing to watch just the amount of information we’re able to gather as a call comes in and to process that call and get the right responders on the way to help them out,” said Brown.

Thursday morning, 911 dispatchers across the country will meet in Montgomery to celebrate the 55th anniversary. They will also hold a press conference discussing how far the 911 service has come since the late 1960’s.