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Blog Archive: December 2020

Screen shot of the Minnesota COVID-19 dashboard with overview information about statewide case numbers

What is GIS, and how did it help you this year?

Dec. 31

For most Minnesotans, the COVID-19 pandemic is the first time they’ve faced a crisis on such a large scale. Many of us found ourselves at home for weeks or months, worrying about our own wellbeing and that of our loved ones. In such uncertain times, one thing that helps immensely is information. Data. An honest, visual representation of what is going on beyond our doorstep. The Department of Public Safety division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management (DPS-HSEM) understood the need for information and, with staff from other agencies such as the Minnesota...

It's a freeway, not a raceway. Drive Smart!

Resolve to drive safely in 2021

Dec. 28

With a New Year just around the corner, you may be thinking about your New Year’s resolutions. What do you want to change for the better in 2021? Perhaps you’re thinking about getting more exercise, or spending less money, or finally cleaning out that closet you’ve been avoiding since 2011. Whatever New Year’s resolutions you decide on, the Department of Public Safety Office of Traffic Safety (OTS) is asking you and all Minnesotans to add one to the top of the list: Drive safely. This is a request you’ve likely heard many times before, but it’s never been more urgent...

A destroyed vehicle and first responders at the scene of a crash

French fries and three generations: The story of a fatal crash

Dec. 21

French fries. Who’d have thought it would be French fries? Sgt. Kelly Phillips has been a crash investigator for the Minnesota State Patrol for 12 years, and there’s one crash that will stay with her forever. And it all started with a bag of French fries. Sgt. Phillips was called to the scene of a fatal crash on County Road 50 in Lakeville. It was Dec. 12, 2009, and three generations of a family – a grandmother, aunt, and granddaughter – were heading home from a Christmas choir practice at their church when their car was hit head-on by a truck going the opposite direction. “There were family members...

Debris scattered on the ground after an explosion that killed two people in their Marshall, Minnesota, home

How the smell of rotten eggs could save your life

Dec. 17

You know that odor you sometimes smell when you go to start a burner on a gas stove but it doesn’t light right away? The one that smells like rotten eggs or sulfur? That’s natural gas you’re smelling. Which can be confusing since natural gas and liquid propane don’t actually have a smell. Gas companies add a chemical called mercaptan to natural gas and liquid propane, which produces the sulfur-like smell so that you’ll know if there’s a leak of potentially explosive gas. That smell could save your life. So could a combustible-gas alarm. Why would you need an alarm to alert you...

A motorcyclist on a curve in the road

We can learn from this year’s motorcycle fatalities

Dec. 14

Traffic deaths have increased sharply on Minnesota’s roads in 2020. Unfortunately, motorcycle deaths are no exception. Rider deaths are up 43 percent from last year. But we don’t have to allow this trend to continue. One thing we can do to honor the lives of those we have lost is to learn from them so that we can prevent future deadly crashes. Statistics for motorcycle deaths in Minnesota are more than numbers – they tell a story. Preliminary numbers show 63 motorcyclists have died so far in 2020. At the same time last year, there were 44 motorcycle fatalities on Minnesota roads. We can do better...

Online enticement reports graph for reports during Jan. 1 to Sept. 30

How to help kids stay safe from online sexual predators

Dec. 10

The pandemic has brought many unexpected things, and among them is an increase in opportunities for online sexual predators. Think about it: with schools doing partial or complete distance learning, kids are spending more time online than ever before. And with parents working inside or outside the home, some of that online activity is unsupervised. This is exactly the sort of situation a sexual predator is looking for. Online enticement reports graph for reports during Jan. 1 to Sept. 30The numbers tell the story: nationally, reports of predators targeting children online have doubled...

Five caskets at the front of a church during a visitation

How to survive a silent killer

Dec. 7

This year has been one of loss for so many Minnesotans. Loved ones are dying of COVID-19, in traffic crashes, in house fires, or in any one of a number of other ways. So imagine you have a family member in another state who manages to survive a hurricane…only to die of carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning. Heartbreaking. Now imagine it’s not one family member, but five. That’s exactly what happened to Sheletta Brundidge, who shared her family’s tragic story in this video. The Twin Cities radio personality and Cottage Grove resident was concerned for her Louisiana family’s...

Two hands holding a smartphone with a Text-to-911 message on the screen

How and why you should use Text-to-911 properly

Dec. 3

Picture it: You’re caught up in an emergency, but you can’t talk on the phone. So you use Text-to-911. Hoping to give as much detail as possible about your situation, you decide to attach a photo to your text. What could it hurt? The answer is, it could ruin your chances of getting help at all. Right now, the Text-to-911 system is not able to accept emojis, photos, videos or graphics. So if you send an emergency text to 911 with any emoji or attachment, you run the risk of your text never getting answered. That’s exactly what happened to a deaf man who texted 911 earlier this year with a picture and got...