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IPAWS celebrates milestone

Lillian McDonald awarded for work on IPAWS

Minnesota’s public alert system, known as IPAWS (Integrated Public Alert and Warning System), recently reached a five year milestone. The Statewide Emergency Communications Board committee, tasked with establishing policies, procedures and protocols for IPAWS, honored five of the founding members this month. IPAWS can be used by local and state authorities to send warnings and alerts to the public about safety threats, including:
  • AMBER Alerts
  • Civil dangers and emergencies
  • Evacuations and shelter notices
  • Hazardous materials incidents
IPAWS messages can be delivered in a variety of ways, including through the Emergency Alert System (EAS) on radio and TV stations and via cell phone using Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA). Sixty-two of Minnesota’s 87 counties have the capability to send an IPAWS message.

Own an iPhone? Why you won’t want to say the numbers 108 to Siri

Siri screenshot

There’s a new prank circulating across social media and this one may have a negative impact on Minnesota 911 dispatch centers. Posts are encouraging people to say the numbers 1-0-8 to Siri. But doing so will call 9-1-1.

The prank has hit Minnesota with a confirmed case in Blue Earth County.  108 is the emergency number in India, but on Apple devices, it will translate it to 911 in the United States. This is a dangerous prank that could potentially and quickly overwhelm a 911 center, especially a small one, preventing legitimate calls from getting through.

This news story from North Carolina explains how the prank works.

Text-to-911 does not equal more work for dispatch centers

Minnesota is in the midst of implementing Text-to-911 service statewide in 2017. While people are still encouraged to call when they can, they can soon text to 911, if:

  • individuals have a speech or hearing impairment.
  • if speaking may cause someone harm, such as in burglary or domestic violence situation.
  • if lack of service eliminates a voice call when data service is present.

Recently, 911 professionals from across the nation gathered in Washington to address concerns that the service would overwhelm 911 dispatch centers. In a panel discussion, PSAP (public safety answering point) officials from Arkansas, Indiana and South Carolina agreed that the impact to workflow has been minimal. FCC Commissioner Mignon L. Clyburn, said that "some jurisdictions are worried that text-to-911 will add cost or be a strain for PSAP personnel. But there is good news to report: Virtually all of the PSAPs that have implemented text-to-911 thus far report that they have been able to make the transition smoothly without disrupting operations."

Read the entire article, reprinted with permission by TRDaily or access it online.

Public Safety Interoperable Communications Conference

Mark your calendars for the 8th annual Minnesota Public Safety Communications Conference scheduled for May 1 - 3, 2017. We will again convene at the St. Cloud River's Edge Convention Center for three days of learning and networking. Registration is expected to open on March 20th. 

More information is available at the registration website.