​​​​When emergencies know no bounds: How 911 calls work along Minnesota’s borders​

March 6, 2023

Two 911 dispatchers at their workstations

Picture this: You're spending a long weekend camping near one of Minnesota's borders. You're having a good time on a hike or in a lake, then emergency strikes. You call 911, but because you're unfamiliar with the area, you can only give general location information. You don't know if you're talking to a 911 dispatcher in Minnesota or the neighboring state. You also don't know where the closest emergency response services are.

That's where our Emergency Communications Networks (ECN) division comes in with an initiative to ensure efficient and fast response to 911 calls—no matter where you are. ECN is working with states alongside the Minnesota border to transfer 911 calls between dispatch centers on either side of the state border.

“This is a big deal. Being able to transfer a call with location and callback information to adjacent states is another tool in a dispatcher's toolbox to be able to get the right responders started more quickly, getting 911 callers help as fast as possible," said ECN Director Dana Wahlberg.

The program improves communication between agencies in different states, building on our common mission: Getting you help when and where you need it.

This initiative was first tested with North Dakota several years ago. It was so successful that Minnesota and Iowa partnered to do it along our southern border. Testing between Minnesota and South Dakota is scheduled to begin next.

This system provides dispatchers the call back phone number of the wireless 911 caller as well as location information. This information allows dispatchers to immediately identify when a 911 call placed along the border is routed to a 911 center in the neighboring state.

When the dispatcher transfers the call to the correct 911 call center, the same two pieces of information accompany the call and display in the 911 call center receiving the transfer.  This allows for a quicker emergency response time.

To learn more about ECN and the 911 system, visit our website.​​​