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Emergency Communication Networks

A Division of the Minnesota Department of Public Safety

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Calling all parents: Now’s the time to dial up students’ safe behaviors

Calling for help is an important skill for children to develop, but dialing 911 can be challenging or confusing for them. In a recent study, none of the kindergarten and first grade students tested could dial 911 and report an emergency, and only 16 percent of second and third grade students were successful with the same task.

Children need these skills because sometimes they might be the only ones who can call 911. Their parent or guardian could be choking; a friend might have an asthma attack walking home from the bus stop; a fire might spark in the home after school and before their parents return from work.

“One of the first phone numbers every child must learn how to properly use early in life is 911. This is so important because dialing or texting 911 becomes their lifeline when they or someone they love is in trouble and needs help from law enforcement, fire or ambulance during an emergency," said Director Wahlberg.  

Part of the issue is education. Children in the study struggled to recognize an emergency. Before children become overwhelmed with the start of school, new classes and new friends, DPS officials are encouraging parents to sit down with their kids to discuss when to call 911. Parents can use the following points to guide the discussion:

  • Let kids know they should call 911 if they see someone who needs help right away because of an injury or an immediate danger.

  • When calling 911, tell children they need to do so from a safe location where they aren't in danger.

  • Ensure kids understand that when it comes to calling 911, it's better to be safe than sorry. If it turns out that the situation wasn't a true emergency, let children know it's OK they called 911 anyway because they were trying to help — and that's a good thing.

Talking to public safety telecommunicators, or 911 dispatchers, can also be scary for children. But if parents give them the information they need to navigate the call, they'll have the confidence to do it when necessary. When calling 911, children need to do their best to stay calm, describe the emergency and share the address or location of the emergency.

Traditionally, children are also taught how to dial 911 using landline phones. However, more and more often, families are relying on cell phones instead of landlines. It's important to make sure children have access to a phone even when adults aren't around. They also need to know how to unlock and dial 911 using a smartphone. Parents can help them practice by roleplaying different emergency situations with their families. Mobile phone apps that allow children to simulate 911 phone calls are another tool for parents to use to reinforce these behaviors and skills.

In Minnesota, texting 911 is also an option. Since the service began in 2017, there have been several instances of children texting 911 when their parents were in verbal or physical conflict and they knew making a call would put them in danger. Some of the state's public safety answering points, or 911 dispatch centers, also have built-in language translation capabilities for their texting programs.

ECN training specializes in keeping up communication when it’s critical

Training participants working with computers and radio equipment.As first responders rely more upon new communications technologies to better serve you in an emergency, it becomes critical  that those who specialize in keeping communication networks up and running are prepared for anything.

That's why our Emergency Communication Networks division conducted a joint communication exercise last month at Camp Ripley. The exercise brought together emergency responders from across Minnesota to learn more about alternative communication methods and make sure agencies are ready to work together during a critical incident.

Learn more in this DPS blog.​​

ECN receives new funds to complete 911 infrastructure upgrades

​By Oct. 1, $7 million will head out to Minnesota’s eligible public safety answering points (PSAPs) thanks to new funds approved by the legislature. 

This one-time appropriation will be used to complete necessary upgrades, equipment purchases, technology enhancements and trainings to accommodate the state’s roll-out of the Next Generation 911 (NG911) system. 

The funds are available through June 30, 2025. Eligible PSAPs will be required to submit a separate compliance report indicating how these funds were spent by Aug. 1, 2025.

Help us help you!

Dispatch centers across the state are experiencing a significant uptick in pocket dials and hang-ups -- with some 911 call centers seeing these calls go up 300 percent. These misdials often require dispatchers and law enforcement officers to follow-up with the caller to see if there is an emergency, which prevents them from answering other calls.
While we look into what may be causing this spike in accidental calls, there is something you can do to help us now.
If you have a device that can make emergency calls, like a cell phone or smartwatch, be aware of its settings. Simply knowing how to activate your "Emergency SOS" feature can reduce instances of accidentally triggering it -- especially during high-movement activities.
Sometimes it's just an instance of lint or grease jamming the trigger, so cleaning and maintaining your device may be the solution.
Also, if you do call 911 by mistake, don't hang up! Let the dispatcher know the call was a mistake so they can end the call with you and move on to the next caller.

Featured Video

Video Description: Call if you can, text if you can't. Learn about Text-to-911.