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Veronica Marshall  612-487-1102
November 28, 2023
Saving lives one text at a time
New technology helps public safety telecommunicators reach patients

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ST. PAUL — It was the type of call that makes a 911 public safety telecommunicator's (PST) heart drop; a relative was calling 911 out of concern for their loved one. In this case, a sister was trying to get urgent medical attention for her brother. The problem? She didn't know where he was — and neither did he.

Thanks to a new high-tech mapping program, rescuers located the man before disaster struck. The Department of Public Safety's Emergency Communication Networks (ECN) division offers the mapping program to all Minnesota public safety answering points (PSAPs) for free.

“I sent a text message saying, 'This is 911, click this link to share your location,' to the patient. Within two to three seconds, we had that updated location," said Jessica Stanton, a former PST (also known as a 911 dispatcher) with Dakota 911. “We already had medics and police officers on the way out there to the general area, but now I was actually able to attach a screenshot of where this person was located in the park."

Rescue efforts involving ground searches can be high stakes; a delay of just a few minutes can cost someone their life. Locating the patient, which once could have taken responders hours, was instantaneous with the click of the link.

“The importance of time cannot be overstated when it comes to saving lives. Thanks to the existence of cutting-edge technology, we can now pinpoint a caller's exact location with remarkable precision, often even before they are aware of it," said ECN Director Dana Wahlberg. “RapidDeploy's Solution is just part of how ECN is constantly adapting technology to meet Minnesota's needs, and we want the public to know about this as well."

The technology PSTs use to locate callers has evolved rapidly, giving rescuers the gift of time when those in danger or critical situations need it most. Another gift? The ability to quickly overcome language barriers and connect with people in need.

“We've been able to utilize the outbound text feature and language translation to try to make contact and try to find out if there's an emergency situation happening," said Heidi Hieserich, Dakota 911's executive director. “It saves us a tremendous amount of time not having to go through the process of getting translation services on the line with us."

According to the latest census data, 12 percent of Minnesotan families speak languages other than English in their homes. That means nearly 700,000 people could need and would benefit from having access to rapid translation services during an emergency.

“In a diverse state like Minnesota, where numerous languages are spoken, having a tool that enables us to swiftly and seamlessly connect with and understand anyone who requires assistance is of utmost importance," said Wahlberg.

A new video educating the public about the service is now available online.

445 Minnesota Street, Suite 100 | Saint Paul, Minnesota 55101-5155 | dps.mn.gov