History of 911 Communications

Emergency Communications, as we know it today, follows the history of the New Castle County Fireboard and the New Castle County Police Department. The dispatchers that were hired to staff the Fireboard dispatched all fire and ambulance calls as well as the county police. The Fireboard was first housed in the basement of the county engineering building located on Capitol Trail. The Fireboard went on the air at noontime on March 27, 1959.

Expansion & Growth

With the increased demand for services, police and fire communication separated with each service receiving its own telephone number. In 1971, the county police calls were handled by a group of dispatchers who moved to the basement of Delaware State Police Troop 6 located on Kirkwood Highway. This was the start of a regional communications center (Recom), which would dispatch New Castle County Police, Delaware State Police, and the municipalities within New Castle County. The Fireboard was then expanded and in 1974 moved from the basement to the first floor of the engineering building.

With the county continuing to grow, New Castle County leased the old Minquadale Elementary School located at 3601 N. Dupont Highway in late 1979. In the spring of 1980, all dispatch functions for emergency services moved into the Minquadale facility. In the fall of 1980, basic 911 came to Delaware. This one number allowed citizens who needed emergency services, police, fire, or ambulance to access them quickly. Citizens no longer had to remember the seven-digit number to reach a service. The first full year of service the amount of calls was 292,208. By 1989, the calls for service grew to 457,482.

Emergency Call Operators

With 911, the role of the emergency call operator was formed. This group would triage an incoming call for service and determine which services were necessary to assist the caller.

911 Enhancements

As technology grew, so did the enhancements.


911 became E911 in 1988. Automatic Number Identification (ANI) and Automatic Location Identification (ALI) allowed personnel to instantaneously know where and what number the caller was calling from. This feature allowed citizens who couldn't remain on the phone for whatever reason to receive assistance from the information provided by this new enhancement.

Radio Communications

Radio communications have also come a long way. First, radio communications for police and fire services were only able to receive radio transmissions. Emergency radio communications progressed to a two-way low band radio system. This system could be heard up and down the state, many times overriding another radio transmission. Eventually, police departments were assigned individual frequencies and officers were issued handheld portables, which allowed them to remain in contact with the dispatch center. Today's radios, 800 MHz trunk systems, allow for inter-agency groupings to state-wide talk capabilities.

Other Enhancements

Another enhancement to the dispatch center is the Computer-Aided Dispatch system. This computer tracks officer's activity, calls for service, and other enhancements for the dispatchers. Another enhancement to the dispatch center is the Global Positioning System (GPS). Police patrol units and Paramedic units have GPS installed in their vehicles. This feature allows dispatchers the ability to determine a unit's location and dispatch the closest unit. Police patrol units and paramedic units are now equipped with laptop computers which communicate directly with the communications center via wireless technology. This allows the communications center to provide a high quality of service to those we serve. Personnel are constantly looking for technological improvements to enhance 911 services.