The world’s first telephone emergency number, 999, is 75 years old today. Britain was the first country to adopt a special short number for fire, police or ambulance. The service was inaugurated in London on 1 July 1937 following a number of incidents where death and injury had resulted from an inability to summon assistance quickly. 999 was chosen because it was the longest sequence on the old pulse-dial telephones and therefore less likely to be entered in error. At the same time, it was very easy to remember.
Although the reason for 999 has long since disappeared, the number itself is still in use for emergencies in the UK. In recent years, however, the European standard 112 is also recognised in Britain.