This week is National Public Safety Telecommunications Week—an opportunity to recognize the crucial work 911 employees do to help people in need get prompt emergency service.
The City of Minneapolis is also using the opportunity to reflect on 911’s history at the City, look forward to the future and raise awareness of what to do and not to do when calling 911 to report an emergency.
Minneapolis 911 handles about 700,000 calls a year —2,000 or more calls a day in the summer and often up to 1,500 calls a day in the winter. As calls come in, 911 dispatchers assess the situation and enter crucial information into computers to prioritize calls. Radio dispatchers simultaneously send help and monitor the progress of each emergency response.
Minneapolis 911 is implementing professional call-processing protocols in 2017. The Police and Fire protocols will allow Minneapolis 911 to better:
- Prioritize 911 calls.
- Provide life-saving instructions for emergency situations such as home invasions, vehicle accidents, fires, gas leaks or escapes from a sinking vehicle.
- Consistently provide every call with the highest level of service.
- Continue collecting scene information for responders after help has been dispatched.
- Provide post-dispatch instructions to improve call outcomes in many situations.
Every dispatcher is receiving professional training in these protocols before full implementation this summer. Medical dispatching has been using these protocols for many years and those emergency calls will continue to be handled by our EMS partners.
Know when to call 911
Call 911 to report suspicious, possibly criminal activity in progress, e.g., alarms, shots fired, shouts for help, sounds of glass breaking or an unfamiliar person carrying items from a house. The situation does not have to be an emergency to call 911.
With more Minneapolis residents moving away from landline telephones and relying solely on cellphones, 911 dispatchers urge folks to find a central location at home to keep their cellphones, such as a kitchen counter or a table by the door. This makes the cellphone easier to find in case of an emergency when seconds matter and stress is high. Teach those you live with, especially children, where to find the phone so they can quickly call 911.
When calling 911, people should follow these guidelines:
- Do not hang up until the call ends. If the call isn’t answered immediately, the system will send your call to the next available dispatcher.
- Do not hang up if you call 911 by accident. Hang-ups require 911 dispatchers to call the number back. This happens more than 100 times every day and monopolizes 911 resources including phone lines that should be used for incoming emergency calls.
- Give the location where help is needed when calling 911. This includes address, intersection and landmarks as requested.
- Help can be sent while you talk. The dispatcher will ask some important questions that help responders know where to go and what to expect. The dispatcher is able to send help while in emergencies while continuing to gather more information from the caller.
- Translation help is available. Say “language line” or let the dispatcher know if you need a translator.
When not to call 911
People should not call 911 to report City issues that do not need police, fire or an ambulance to respond; they should use the City of Minneapolis website or call 311. Folks should avoid calling 911 to get directions or legal advice or to find out if someone is in jail. The Hennepin County Sheriff’s jail roster is available online and at 612-348-5112.