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Call 999 emergency line for help in Winnipeg

The Story


When disaster strikes in Winnipeg, there's just one number residents need to know: 999. In a city of 16 municipalities, each with its own fire and police service, that's a vast improvement over 32 possible numbers to call for help. CBC Winnipeg's Eye to Eye visits the 999 emergency switchboard, talking with the people who run the service and hearing some of the calls -- including one from a girl whose sister has swallowed a marble. 

Medium: Television
Program: Eye to Eye
Broadcast Date: Dec. 8, 1959
Guest(s): A.E. Bennett
Reporter: Harvey Dawes
Duration: 14:06

Did You know?


• The number "999" has been used for emergency service in the United Kingdom since 1937. It was organized after a delay in reporting a London fire resulted in five deaths.


• Winnipeg's 999 service, introduced in 1959, was a forerunner to 911 service in centres across North America. 

• According to the website of the Winnipeg Police Service, then-mayor Stephen Juba was the driving force behind the introduction of 999 service.

• When 999 service began, the Winnipeg police force hired eight women as operators. At least three operators were later promoted to the rank of policewoman. 

• Winnipeg's 999 emergency number was changed to 911 in 1972. 

• In the United States, 911 service began in Alabama in 1968 and spread to the rest of the country by 1973. 

• Bell Canada introduced 911 service in London, Ont. in 1974.

• It's not known why the numbers 9-1-1 were chosen for emergency service in North America. Theories are that it was based on the United Kingdom's 9-9-9, substituting two 1's because they were faster to dial on a rotary phone. 

• Prince Edward Island was the last province to get 911 service in 2000. 

• As of 2003, many jurisdictions in Canada do not have 911 service. Residents have to dial a local number for police, fire or ambulance service.

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Canada Says Hello: The First Century of the Telephone more