Do you know what happens behind the scenes of a 911 call to ensure you get the help you need quickly? We break it down.

Local News

You may never know just how important it is until you need to do it: Calling 911.

We explored what happens behind the scenes in order for first responders to get to you as quickly as they can.

Dialing 911 from your phone is easy. It doesn’t matter if you’re in the country like Burlington, or in the city like Minot — but getting first responders to your exact location takes a lot of work that you don’t see.

“We get everything from a cat caught in a tree, to grandma’s having a heart attack, to my brother overdosed, to somebody’s been stabbed, to Johnny won’t go to school,” said Margaret Haugan, Minot Central Dispatch PSAP manager.

No matter what the call is, getting you the help you need is the No. 1 priority. The most critical part of their job is finding out where to send first responders and how you call makes a difference on which dispatch center is contacted.

“When someone calls from a landline, from their home or business, it comes in and gives us the address immediately because it’s a verified location. However, with wireless, we have when it goes into a phase one. A phase one is meaning it’s a tower in the area. We have to get it to a phase two, which means it’s a location or a close proximity to a location,” Haugan said.

When you call from your cell phone in Ward County, the call goes to Bismarck first and then it could go to a number of other locations, as well.

From there, to make sure it goes to the correct dispatch center, it then goes back to Bismarck before going to Minot Central Dispatch. This all happens within a matter of seconds.

“Since a wireless phone can originate anywhere, this network has to determine where the phone actually is and where the closest dispatch center is. It has to put those two things together,” said Larry Haug, Ward County 911 coordinator.

Another key piece to finding your location is the 911 map.

It has all of the addresses in the city and county which means faster response times.

“When property owners are going to build a house or build a new business, whatever it is, they’ll contact me. I’ll issue a new address and that’s when it gets entered onto the 911 map that dispatchers ultimately use to send first responders there,” Haug said.

With over 2,000 square miles in Ward County, every mile counts.

Haug wants to remind people to make sure their house numbers are displayed visibly either on the house or the street. This helps first responders find your house quickly during any weather conditions or time of day.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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