Don't know where you are? 911 can still help.

June 14, 2021

Minneapolis skyline with emergency symbols and text that says using geography to keep Minnesota safe

​Imagine you're driving down a country road at night when someone in the car with you has a heart attack. You call 911, but you can't tell the dispatcher where you are because you don't know—you can't see a road sign or mile marker or building anywhere. The dispatcher can tell which cell tower your phone is pinging, but those can cover a wide area. How do they pinpoint where to send help?

Precision in locating a mobile 911 caller will improve with the upcoming implementation of Next Generation 911 (NG911) Core Services. This system uses Minnesota's geographic information system (GIS) data that's being collected as part of the Minnesota NG911 project. The GIS project combines specific mapping data from local partners, such as counties and tribal nations, to map all of Minnesota accurately enough to pinpoint the location of wireless 911 callers. This will help improve address verification and provide faster, more accurate emergency response to 911 callers. Ultimately, it will save lives.

As part of the GIS project, the Minnesota Department of Public Safety Emergency Communication Networks division (ECN) launched the Minnesota NG911 GIS Hub website, designed for ECN's GIS and public safety answering point (PSAP) partners. Minnesota is a nationwide early adopter in launching such a site for its NG911 GIS program.

The Hub is a faster, easier way for ECN to collaborate with partners and to share information about the NG911 project. For example, the site will enable local leaders to monitor how their county is progressing through each of the phases of the GIS project. It features several dashboards with interactive maps and charts that show the buildout of GIS mapping for each county in Minnesota.

The next phase of the project will include a web-based statewide portal, which will contain the entire collection of ready-to use data. This will allow GIS and PSAP partners to upload data in real time, rather than having to wait several days for updated information.

As we become more and more dependent on cell phones, ECN is determined to provide the technology that can help public safety keep up. In 2020, more than 85 percent of 911 calls came from wireless devices, and that number is only growing. The GIS project and its accompanying website will ensure that PSAPs can find you to get help to you more quickly on that lonely country road – or wherever you are – when you need it.