Emergency? Dial 9-1-1!

Emergency? Dial 9-1-1!
Pat Nixon: First Ladies' Lives

Skill: Middle School
Time Required: One to two class periods


The first 9-1-1 emergency call in the United States was placed in February of 1968, just about a year before Pat and Richard Nixon entered the White House.  The history of the IDEA of 9-1-1, however, goes back further than that.  How far?  Let's see!


Students who participate in this lesson will learn about the history of the idea of a single, universal number for calling for help, and will gain experience in creating timelines.

Materials Required:

Access to the Internet; access to print materials on 9-1-1; paper for creating a Timeline.


1.  Introduce the lesson by asking students if they have ever had to dial 9-1-1; if so, what was the story behind the call?

2.  If not, and using the websites listed below, have students research the history of 9-1-1, including:

  • where the idea came from
  • where it was first put into use
  • when it was implemented in the U.S.
  • what governmental and private agencies were involved?
  • if, and if so, how, it has changed over time

3.  When the research is complete, have students take part in creating a Timeline of Events in the history of 9-1-1.

Extending the Lesson:

This lesson might be extended by having students gather first-hand accounts (oral history) by people who have used 9-1-1, and creating a book of Emergency Stories.

Sources & Resources:



This lesson was developed by Averil McClelland, Kent State University.