The origin of the '999' system
The '999' system as we know it today, was originally set up in 1937 by the Post Office, who agreed to replace street fire alarms with telephone boxes. The telephone had a system to allow people to call for the fire, police or ambulance services for free.
The general public were reluctant to change to the new telephone system as there was a concern that the telephone may not always be in working order. Many people were also worried that the system would be much slower. This is because the ‘999’ call went to the exchange and then the message had to be relayed to the nearest fire station. However with one central control room all fire engines could be mobilised from one location making operations much easier to coordinate.
In 1948 therefore a new control room was opened at the London Fire Brigade headquarters at Lambeth where all ‘999’ calls were received and this was also the location where fire engines could be mobilised.
Today, our state-of-the-art control room is based in Merton.