Ask A Trooper

Sgt. Jesse Grabow

Question: I thought I heard about 911 being able to find accurate locations even when people don’t know exactly where they are. Can you talk about that?

Answer: Yes, we shared some information on this very subject on our Minnesota Department of Public Safety’s blog just recently. I will share the article.

“As a former dispatcher, Jessica Stanton knows seconds count in an emergency. That’s why she was grateful earlier this year for RapidDeploy Radius technology, a new high-tech mapping program that helps public safety telecommunicators locate those who need help with pinpoint accuracy so first responders can find them quickly. Our Emergency Communication Networks (ECN) division offers the mapping program to all Minnesota public safety answering points (PSAPs) for free.

Stanton was working as a public safety telecommunicator for Dakota 911 when a woman called trying to get urgent medical attention for her brother. The problem? She didn’t know where he was — and neither did he.

Stanton used the RapidDeploy technology to send the man a text message saying, “This is 911, click this link to share your location.” The man clicked the link, giving Stanton his exact location within two or three seconds. She sent a screenshot of the map to first responders, who quickly zeroed in on his location and started providing medical attention.

“Within a couple seconds of speaking to this individual, they actually became unable to communicate due to his medical condition,” Stanton said. “It was just the right opportunity, the right time, everything worked out perfectly and hopefully that’s how it works out in the future as well.”

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 texting technology also allows telecommunicators at PSAPs to quickly overcome language barriers and connect with those in need. RapidDeploy uses a built-in translation feature supporting multiple languages to communicate with callers in their preferred language. 

“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.”

For more information on the “Emergency Communication Networks” please visit