National 9-1-1 Education Month has only been around since 2008, but efforts to create a universal emergency services number first began in the late 1950s. In 1968, the first 9-1-1 call was made in the United States, and almost 40 years later in 2009, about 96 percent of the United States was covered by some type of 9-1-1.

As 9-1-1 is a crucial element of public safety, it's important that adults and children alike know how to properly use these services. This year's campaign theme is "Be 9-1-1 Ready," urging citizens to know when and how to call 9-1-1, and what information to provide to emergency dispatchers.

Things to remember about using 9-1-1: 

  • ◙   It is for emergencies only. If you're in a situation where someone's life is in danger, a crime is being committed, or there is a fire, call 9-1-1.
  • ◙   Be ready to provide the dispatcher with the emergency's exact location. Emergency responders need this information so they can arrive in a timely manner.
  • ◙   If you must use a cell phone to call 9-1-1, remember that it may take extra time to transfer your call to the appropriate call center.
  • ◙   Some areas may have 9-1-1 services that are able to accept text messages. However, this is not available in all areas. Make sure you know the facts about your local 9-1-1.
  • ◙   If you call 9-1-1, stay calm, follow all of the dispatcher's instructions, and stay on the line until the dispatcher tells you that you can hang up.

By being prepared and ready to use 9-1-1 in emergencies, you will be more likely to handle the situation appropriately and less likely to feel anxious or helpless. Your preparedness could mean the difference between life and death!