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Boy, 7, Saves Family by Dialing 911
March 10, 2010

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"The 911 system is so simple even a child can use it."

That's what people are told, and yet another piece of evidence has emerged to prove that statement.

A 7-year-old boy calmly phoned 911 from a locked bathroom to report that armed robbers were in his house and threatening his parents and his 6-year-old sister.

The boy, who has been identified only as Carlos, made the call, relayed to the Log Angeles County Sheriff's Department, from his home in Norwalk, Calif.

In a recording of the phone call, released by authorities, the boy can be heard telling the dispatcher that two of the three assailants had guns and were holding his parents at gunpoint while he and his sister were locked in a bathroom. The recording also contains sounds suggesting that the assailants broke into the bathroom where the boy and the girl were hiding. No one was hurt, however, as sheriff's deputies arrived soon after.

Authorities were still struggling to find a motive for the attack, although the method of entry was known: Apparently, the girl had left the front door open while she ran out to the family car to grab her lunch box.

The California episode was the latest in a growing number of cases in which the 911 emergency dialing system has been used by the most unlikely of users. Every year, the number is dialed literally millions of times, including by pets. (One widely known case in 2008 involved a German shepherd saving the life of his owner, who was suffering a seizure, by dialing 911 and barking until help arrived.) The United Kingdom was the first country to institute a three-digit emergency dialing system, in 1937. The numbers are 999. Oddly enough, the first 999 call was to report a forced home entry as well, this one a burglary in London. The burglar was caught.

Australia followed suit 20 years later with its own 999 service (changed to 000 in 1961). In 1958, Canada began its own 999 service. Most countries around the world now have similar emergency dialing services.

The first 911 call in the U.S. came on Feb. 16, 1968. It wasn't to report a crime but to test the system. Alabama Speaker of the House Rankin Fite placed the call from Haleyville City Hall to the city's police station, where U.S. Rep. Tom Bevill (D-Ala) picked up the phone and reportedly said, "Hello?"

Large cities in the U.S. began implementing the 911 service later that year. States followed suit.

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