A strange one regarding the 119 Covid number

figbat

Slippery scientist
While we are talking numbers, does everybody know why we have 999 as the emergency number and not something like 111 that would have been quicker to dial? Well I'll try and explain my understanding.

In the early days, telephones were analogue. Numbers were dialled, or could be tapped on the handset rest. You might think that a lower number (111), would be quicker than dialling or tapping 999, but they found that there were too many miss dials by people dialling higher numbers. It was easy to hesitate when trying to dial a high number and thus allow a 1 to be registered and thus a false call to the emergency services.

So the experts decided that it had to be three nines, as there could be no mistake that the emergency service was required and only genuine emergency calls got through.

Now that phones are digital, it would not matter what number was used as the chance of an unintended number is no longer possible.

Well that's my story. I think it's true as it was told to me on a BT course.

But if you know something different.....
I read that because back then phones used pulse dialling, it was possible for accidental calls to be made by telegraph lines swinging in the wind and tapping trees etc,
 

DRM

Veteran
Location
West Yorks
While we are talking numbers, does everybody know why we have 999 as the emergency number and not something like 111 that would have been quicker to dial? Well I'll try and explain my understanding.

In the early days, telephones were analogue. Numbers were dialled, or could be tapped on the handset rest. You might think that a lower number (111), would be quicker than dialling or tapping 999, but they found that there were too many miss dials by people dialling higher numbers. It was easy to hesitate when trying to dial a high number and thus allow a 1 to be registered and thus a false call to the emergency services.

So the experts decided that it had to be three nines, as there could be no mistake that the emergency service was required and only genuine emergency calls got through.

Now that phones are digital, it would not matter what number was used as the chance of an unintended number is no longer possible.

Well that's my story. I think it's true as it was told to me on a BT course.

But if you know something different.....
I was told it was because the 9 was next to the finger stop, so was easier to find in the dark/blind panic thus avoiding a misdial, long before keypad phones.
 

Craig the cyclist

Well-Known Member
I was told it was because the 9 was next to the finger stop, so was easier to find in the dark/blind panic thus avoiding a misdial, long before keypad phones.
That is what I was always led to believe.

Who knows/cares no-one uses a dial anymore do they?
 
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glasgowcyclist

Charming but somewhat feckless
Location
Scotland
I was told it was because the 9 was next to the finger stop, so was easier to find in the dark/blind panic thus avoiding a misdial, long before keypad phones.
Zero was next to the finger stop, so you had to count one in from there.

As for the reasoning behind the selection of 999 as the emergency number, this BBC article covers it well:

"The General Post Office, which ran the telephone network, proposed a three digit number that could trigger a special signal and flashing light at the exchange. The operators could then divert their attention to these priority calls.
In order to find the new emergency number in the dark or thick smoke it was suggested an end number was used so it could be found easily by touch.
111 was rejected because it could be triggered by faulty equipment or lines rubbing together. 222 would have connected to the Abbey local telephone exchange as numbers in the early telephone network represented the first three letters (ABBey = 222, 1 was not used due to the accidental triggering). 000 could not be used as the first 0 would have dialled the operator.
999 was deemed the sensible choice."
 

byegad

Legendary Member
Location
NE England
While we are talking numbers, does everybody know why we have 999 as the emergency number and not something like 111 that would have been quicker to dial? Well I'll try and explain my understanding.

In the early days, telephones were analogue. Numbers were dialled, or could be tapped on the handset rest. You might think that a lower number (111), would be quicker than dialling or tapping 999, but they found that there were too many miss dials by people dialling higher numbers. It was easy to hesitate when trying to dial a high number and thus allow a 1 to be registered and thus a false call to the emergency services.

So the experts decided that it had to be three nines, as there could be no mistake that the emergency service was required and only genuine emergency calls got through.

Now that phones are digital, it would not matter what number was used as the chance of an unintended number is no longer possible.

Well that's my story. I think it's true as it was told to me on a BT course.

But if you know something different.....
That's the reason I was given aged 9 from a tour of a Post Office Telephones exchange. BT didn't come in until I was an adult.
Having worked for a major mobile company 112 on a mobile, at home or abroad, is pretty much bound to get you the local emergency number.
 

Sharky

Guru
Location
Kent
Accidental calls mean the three digit codes are all being phased out anyway:

View: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ab8GtuPdrUQ
Like reality TV documentaries. Reminds me a lot of when I started in IT in the 60's.
 
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