Many 911 systems in the United States use older technologies that struggle to account for the diverse ways of communicating during an emergency or disaster, and dispatchers taking calls must make rapid decisions based on limited information. While newer technology can identify callers’ locations, there is an opportunity to explore how technology can assist in determining the reason for the call and suggesting appropriate responses.

Given this opportunity, HUP recently coordinated a connection between Hennepin County and Professors Tom Fisher (College of Design) and Saif Benjaafar (College of Science and Engineering) to envision a next generation 911 system. The team received funding from the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Civic Innovation Challenge for a Stage 1, 4-month planning grant, during which the team learned about the 911 system and explored opportunities to implement new technology.

Leah Kaiser of Hennepin County Human Services found that working with the University on this project “allowed [us] to be able to expand our thinking, explore new ideas in a way that became really iterative, and allowed us to be open-minded and think of possibilities that otherwise would have been almost impossible to do.”

The project team has applied for a Stage 2 grant to fund a yearlong pilot project in Hennepin County developing new technologies to improve the response to both individual and wide-scale emergencies. View this 5-minute video to learn more from members of the project team.