The 411 on Minnesota’s Wireless and Emergency Alerts
When an emergency happens in Minnesota, it’s the responsibility of public safety officials to inform the public right away. The goal? To get the right information to the right people at the right time so they can make the right decisions.
Minnesota counties, tribal nations and even the state accomplish this task through the Integrated Public Alert and Warning System (IPAWS).
Alerts on your cell phone are called wireless emergency alerts (or WEA) and alerts on the radio or TV are part of the emergency alert system (or EAS). Both are notifications sent by counties, tribal nations or the state through IPAWS.Learn more about Minnesota’s system
and how safeguards could prevent a false alarm from happening here.
145 Texts to 911 in First Week: Most Non-Emergencies
The stats are in! Minnesota’s 911 dispatchers received a total of 145 texts to 911 within the first week of the statewide deployment of the new service. While that may seem like an impressive number, dispatchers report that many of those texts were for non-emergencies or situations where it would have been fine for people to call instead. Two examples include reporting icy roads and reporting hit-and-run crashes. Dispatchers reported a couple of other limitations:
- Many of the texts to 911 went cold when dispatchers would ask follow up questions and they received no response.
- Many times, the dispatchers would ask for the address and the reporting party wouldn’t answer right away or was delayed in giving the answer.
Text-to-911 should only be used in emergencies, when speaking would put you in danger. Also, location isn’t as accurate with Text-to-911, so people should give their exact address right away. Lastly, if you don’t answer a dispatcher’s questions, they can’t help you. Seconds count in an emergency! Don’t delay in giving dispatchers valuable information. Better yet, if it’s safe to speak, call 911 instead!
A New Lifeline: Text-to-911 Deploys Statewide
In an emergency, dialing 911 is a call for help. But people with hearing loss or those who must remain quiet in a dangerous situation aren’t able to place a call safely or at all. That changed today with the statewide deployment of Text-to-911. Texting should only be used when someone can’t make a voice call, so people should remember to: “Call if you can, text if you can’t.”
Text-to-911 will be extremely helpful for the 20 percent of Minnesotans who have some sort of hearing loss. Until today, they went without a direct line of communication to Minnesota’s 104 dispatch centers. Text-to-911 is now a first contact option for them. Text-to-911 is also valuable in emergencies where it would be unsafe for the reporting party to speak, including:
- Home invasions.
- Domestic violence situations.
- Human trafficking.uman trafficking.
- Encounters with agitated or suicidal individuals.
Some considerations: Speaking with a 911 dispatcher is still the fastest way to get help in an emergency. And location isn’t as accurate with text as it can be with a call, so people should always provide their exact address in a text to 911. People should never text and drive. And it is a crime to text 911 with a false report.
Learn more about Text-to-911 in Minnesota on our website
and download the Text-to-911 fact sheet.
SAFECOM Nationwide Survey
The Department of Public Safety Emergency Communication Networks division encourages Minnesota’s public safety community to complete the SAFECOM Nationwide Survey.
The SAFECOM Nationwide Survey (SNS) is a nationwide effort to obtain critical information that will ultimately drive our nation’s emergency communication policies, programs and funding. The SNS is directed at emergency response organizations with a public safety-related mission in law enforcement, fire and rescue, emergency medical services, and public safety answering points and communications centers.
Watch this SNS video to learn more.
A link to the SNS can be found on the SAFECOM website. The survey will be available into February 2018 to ensure agencies have enough time to participate.