Minneapolis launches new 911 dispatch system

The City of Minneapolis is deploying a new system aimed at changing the way 911 dispatchers respond to callers.

City officials says callers have noticed more professionalism from dispatchers. The biggest change with the Priority Dispatch System comes down to the questions those dispatchers ask when first responding to an emergency call. 

“It's an organized set of questions that guide the call-taker and our callers through the information-gathering process, so that things are not missed,” said Heather Hunt, Emergency Communications Director for the City of Minneapolis. “It greatly minimizes the risk of human error.”

First and foremost is finding out the location, so dispatchers can start sending help even before they get to what's actually happening.

“It's been proven that the location is the most important piece of information in any emergency,” said Hunt.

Minneapolis Emergency Communications Director Heather Hunt says the change to the Priority Dispatch System has been in the works since last year when the City Council approved a three-year $500,000 contract with the firm that operates the software.

Officials say the system is aimed at providing the same level of service no matter the nature of the call or who answers it.

“What we hope to see is a reduction in complaints, better outcomes ultimately because we're sending the right people to the right locations with the right information,” said Hunt.

The system will hopefully ease stress not only for the callers, but also for the dispatchers.

“It is a stressful job,” said Hunt. “You are hearing people at what they are considering to be their worst moments.” 

Hunt advises callers to remain on the line until it's ok to hang up or help arrives. 

The department is also seeking about $300,000 in next year's budget to replace outdated technology, furniture and equipment.