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Early Developments (1803 – 2000)

(1803) Congressional Act of 1803 passed in response to a fire that did extensive damage in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. That fire overwhelmed local and state resources and forced residents to ask for federal aid for the first time.

(1806) San Francisco hit by earthquake.

(1871) Chicago burns in a fire widely attributed to a cow knocking over a lantern.

(1945) As a young man anxious to help in the war effort, Martin Sternberg joins the American Red Cross in New York City. He was given a part-time job to send and receive messages to soldiers on Teletype (TTY) machines in the Military Welfare Unit. Little did he dream that those machines would become a standard household item for thousands of deaf people a quarter of a century later.

(1961) Hurricane Carla strikes Texas

(1964) Earthquake strikes Juneau, Alaska.

(1965) Hurricane Betsy hits Florida and New Orleans

(1968) Weather News Service for Deaf begins in St. Louis.

(1969) Hurricane Camille, a Category 5 storm makes landfall on the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

(1970) TTY News service begins in Washington, D.C. Houston inaugurates its TTY weather service.

(1971) TTYs are installed in Dallas and Los Angeles law enforcement departments to receive emergency calls from deaf citizens. San Fernando earthquake rocked Southern California.

(1972) Two lives were saved because someone used a TTY to get aid. St. Louis transmits news stories from UPI wire feeds. Indianapolis starts its own weather service. Hurricane Agnes slams Mid-Atlantic causing widespread damage.

(1979) President Carter signs executive order creating the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)

(1980) After a long dormancy, Mount St. Helens erupted in southwest Washington State, killing 57 people and destroying 250 homes.

(1983) In response to the downing of KAL Flight #007 over Russia airspace due to an apparent navigational error, President Reagan ordered the military to make the Global Positioning System (GPS) network available to all Americans.

(1990) The first President Bush signs the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which forbids discrimination based on disability in government services, including 9-1-1 emergency services.

(1991) TDI works with Toni Dunne, ADA Chair of the National Emergency Number Association (NENA) to educate public safety professionals on accessibility issues in 9-1-1.

(1994) Under a grant from DOJ, TDI develops training kits, Emergency Access Self Evaluation (EASE), for training public safety personnel on how to recognize and handle incoming TTY calls at 9-1-1 centers.

(1997) TDI study analog TTY access through digital wireless networks to 9-1-1 systems.

(1998) National Association of the Deaf (NAD) forms NAD 9-1-1 / Emergency Warning Systems Committee to address concerns about accessible emergency warning systems for severe weather conditions or natural disasters. Several small towns in Midwest distribute pagers to deaf citizens for tornado and severe weather warnings.

(2000) The FCC mandates increased accessibility of video programming to viewers with hearing and vision disabilities during local emergencies. VITAC introduces REACT, an emergency news captioning service to help newscasters comply with new FCC regulations. The Weather Channel begins 20 hours of captioning on its all-weather cable television network.