Modernize MN dispatch service

Jasper Johnson

The Minnesota Department of Public Safety division of Emergency Communications Networks has issued an advisory warning about the lack of locational information for 911 calls made on cellphones. Unlike landlines, cellphones do not necessarily have a location tied to them.

However, being “prepared to provide specific location information,” as the advisory says, is much easier said than done — especially during emergency situations. Even describing your own home address can be difficult when panic sets in.

The technology to obtain an individual’s location from his or her cellphone is already available. Apple allows users to easily send each other their locations via text message.

There are many situations in which discreetly texting 911 could be safer than making a call.

It’s also difficult, if not impossible, to make a phone call and describe your location while slipping out of consciousness in a medical emergency. Additionally, texting is easier for the speaking and hearing impaired.

Adopting potentially life-saving emergency response technologies to allow texting to 911 has been disappointingly sluggish nationwide.

Hennepin County is apparently making progress with its new text-to-911 capable facility, but this service will not become available until it is implemented statewide.

Emergency responders and dispatchers should see changing technology not as a hindrance but rather as an opportunity to make help even more accessible to those who need it. The current dispatch situation is simply inadequate, and Minnesota needs to invest more in updating its emergency dispatch to keep up with changing technology.