About our staff
Our Communications Center is supervised by Communication Center Manager Darlene Pankonie.
Our dispatch center also includes:
26 9-1-1 Public Safety Dispatchers
6 Public Safety Answering Point Coordinators
Because 9-1-1 never sleeps, our dispatchers work a rotating schedule with varying days off, so we are always their to answer the public's calls for help.
By the numbers
The Communication Center dispatches to 16 different police, fire or emergency agencies in Washington County. In 2017, the Communication Center received 72,410 9-1-1 calls and 130,209 non-emergency calls.
Code RED is a web-based system which allows the Sheriff's Office the ability to reach a large number of residents in a very short time, by geographically-based delivery of telephone and text messaging. The system allows county residents the ability to create their own account so they can add or remove numbers they want the system to call. Click here to watch a video on how Code Red works.
To sign up for Code Red, click here.
The nature of the alert, date, time, a map of the area affected and the option to listen to the message are all features included in the widget. Also included at the bottom of the widget is a “Sign Up” button that links directly to the Community Notification Enrollment page to encourage additional citizen enrollment.
9-1-1 is the telephone number to call when a response from law enforcement, fire, or emergency medical services is needed anywhere in Washington County.
When calling within Washington County: Dial 911
When calling outside of Washington County: Dial 651-439-9381
9-1-1 Communications Center
The Washington County 9-1-1 Communications Center is a consolidated 9-1-1 public service answering point (PSAP) that is operated by the Washington County Sheriff’s Office.
The role of the 9-1-1 Communications Center is to provide the public with competent, timely and effective emergency and non-emergency public safety communication services. Over 200,000 phone call requests for service are answered annually. These requests initiate the coordinated response by law enforcement, fire, and emergency medical services to all Washington County residents. The communications center also functions as the central point of coordination for all county emergency warning services.
The communications center has an authorized staffing level that includes the Communications Center Division Manager, 6 (six) PSAP Coordinators, and 25 (twenty five) 9-1-1 Public Safety Dispatchers.
When Should I Call?
Calling 911: Call 9-1-1 when you need direct access to police, fire and medical assistance.
In an emergency: Call 9-1-1 to report a crime in progress, a fire, a serious illness or injury or any situation requiring an immediate response of the law enforcement, fire or ambulance services.
In a non-emergency: Call 9-1-1 when you have a less threatening situation which requires a non-immediate response from police, fire or ambulance such as noise/parking/traffic complaints.
An alternate 10-digit emergency number is 651.439.9381, these lines are answered by the same 9-1-1 communications center staff.
Your call will be put on hold if other emergencies are occurring. Be patient.
What the 9-1-1 Dispatcher needs to know: Speak slowly and clearly. Try to stay calm.
The dispatcher will ask many questions including:
The address where help is needed
The nature of the problem
A phone number where you can be reached
Do NOT call 9-1-1 for: road/travel information, legal advice, civil matter questions, telephone directory assistance, or community event information. A telephone directory or internet sites have this information and numbers.
Important: Call 9-1-1 first in all emergency situations!!!
Do not call family members or friends.
Do not attempt to transport a seriously ill or injured person.
We can get qualified help to the victim much faster and safer than you can get the victim help.
Stay on the phone and answer all of the questions. Do not hang up until told to do so. Help is often started as you are speaking.
Unintentional 9-1-1 Calls
Many false calls are generated to 9-1-1 due to cell phones being auto programmed or pre-programmed with a one button emergency feature to dial 9-1-1.
What Can You Do?
Disable Emergency Buttons. Check your user manual or contact your service provider to find out if your wireless phone has a pre-programmed emergency 9-1-1 button. If it does, find out how to disable it or lock it.
Lock Your Keypad. Most wireless phones have a feature that locks or disables the keypad to prevent accidental dialing. Please get in the habit of using it.
Don't Hang Up. It is rare to be able to hang up a phone before it reaches the 9-1-1 network. Therefore, your misdial will reach the 9-1-1 PSAP. If you realize you have accidentally called 9-1-1, please stay on the line until the 9-1-1 dispatcher answers. 9-1-1 Dispatchers are required to call back all numbers that call 9-1-1 and hang up. You will save the dispatcher several valuable minutes by explaining that you accidentally dialed the wrong number rather than the dispatcher having to call you back to see if there's a problem.
Wireless 9-1-1 – Know Where You Are
More than 70% of all 911 calls are made from wireless phones. 9-1-1 can be dialed from any wireless phone that has power. The phone does not need to have an active wireless service program to call 9-1-1. Most wireless service providers do not deduct calling minutes from the calling plan for 9-1-1 calls.
Although wireless phones provide a reliable connection to 9-1-1 dispatchers, callers should be aware of important differences in how wireless 9-1-1 calls are processed.
Depending upon location, the call will be answered by the local dispatch center such as the Washington County 911 Communications Center, or by the State Patrol. The dispatcher will determine if your situation requires the call to be transferred.
The dispatcher may not receive your name and specific location on the 9-1-1 screen when you call. Depending upon the age of your phone and grade of service, the location information may or may not be available. The dispatcher will need to confirm your exact location.
Be prepared to provide:
The exact address of the emergency or
the city you are in
the name of the road you are on
mile marker signs
exit ramp number
Know and be prepared to provide your wireless phone number, including area code, and your name.
Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) and 9-1-1
Many consumers are subscribing to Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) services for their telephone needs. Unlike traditional wire-line and wireless services, VoIP calls are routed over the internet to connect with the public service telephone networks. These calls present unique challenges to the 9-1-1 system because the user account information is not validated in the same manner as wire-line and wireless phones. Therefore, address information may not conform to 9-1-1 standards and not be reported to the 911 dispatcher. Secondly, because VoIP devices can travel with the customer, a 9-1-1 call can easily be delivered to the wrong 9-1-1 center. For example, a Hugo VoIP user calling 9-1-1 from Orlando with a VoIP device may be routed to the Washington County 9-1-1 Communications Center based upon the account information associated with the device.
Although VoIP providers and regulatory bodies are working to eliminate these problems, users should be aware and be prepared to give their exact location or describe their location while calling 9-1-1. (See Wireless 9-1-1)
Text-to-911 is now available throughout Minnesota. The service was deployed in December 2017.
Text-to-911 can be the first contact option for individuals who are deaf, deafblind, hard of hearing or those with speech impairments.
Text-to-911 should only be used when a person can’t safely make a voice call. Examples: When someone must stay quiet to remain safe; If peer pressure is strong.
Text-to-911 is a discreet way to report domestic violence, home invasions, human trafficking, and suicidal individuals.
HOW TO TEXT 9-1-1
1. Enter the numbers 911 in the "To" field.
2. Text your exact location and type of emergency
3. Send the message
4. Promptly answer questions and follow instructions.
TIPS: Use simple words. Do not use abbreviations, emoji's, pictures or slang (BRB, IDK, THX, 2day, and BTW). Do not text and drive!
Texting 9-1-1 with a false report is a crime. If you accidently send a text to 9-1-1, send another text, or call 9-1-1 to let the dispatcher know that there is no emergency.
The Washington County 800 MHz Radio System provides radio interoperability to ensure first responder and other public safety agencies within Washington County have seamless radio communications for the performance of their duties.
Washington County is a member of the state wide and metro region wide radio system known as ARMER (Allied Radio Matrix for Emergency Response). This is a shared radio system covering nine metro counties, including Anoka, Carver, Chisago, Dakota, Hennepin, Isanti, Ramsey, Scott, and Washington and is being deployed state wide. The ARMER radio system is largely software based and operates in the 800 MHz band.
Washington County invested in radio equipment and tower sites to provide 95 percent on-the-belt portable coverage throughout Washington County. This is accomplished with nine radio sites owned by Washington County and five shared sites that are maintained by the Minnesota Department of Transportation. Washington County has approximately 1,490 law enforcement, fire, EMS, public works and other users on the radio system.
This radio coverage allows fire, law enforcement, EMS, and public works users in Washington County to easily communicate with each other if need arises. Washington County users are also able to communicate with public safety personnel from jurisdictions outside Washington County if there is a need for these agencies to assist Washington County with fires, natural disasters, or law enforcement emergencies. Likewise, if Washington County users respond to jurisdictions outside of Washington County, they are able to communicate with these users anywhere in Minnesota.
The ARMER system is a digital, trunked radio system based on Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP). A digital system produces truer voice communications without the static often heard on older, analog systems. The trunking allows for more efficient use of frequencies and creates a system with more capacity than non-trunked systems. Trunking means that a computer selects one of a number of pooled frequencies for a user to talk on. Once that user releases his talk button, that frequency is immediately available for use by another user. The computer keeps track of how to route communications so conversations occurring on a given talkgroup can be heard by all radios which have that talkgroup selected.
Here are two links to metropolitan and state websites:
Metropolitan Emergency Services Board to the Metro Area ARMER System
State of Minnesota’s Emergency Communication Networks
Bayport Police Department and Fire Department (651-275-4400)
Cottage Grove Public Safety (651-458-2850)
Forest Lake Police Department and Fire Department (651-464-5877)
Hastings Fire Department (651-480-6150)
Hugo Fire Department and EMS Department (651-762-6300)
Lake Elmo Fire Department (651-777-5510)
Lower St Croix Valley Fire/EMS Department (651-436-7033)
Mahtomedi Fire/EMS Department (651-426-1080)
Marine Fire Department (651-433-3636)
Newport Fire Department (651-459-5677)
Oak Park Heights Police Department (651-439-4723)
Oakdale Police Department and Fire/EMS Department (651-739-1025)
Scandia Fire Department (651-433-4383)
Stillwater Police Department and Fire Department (651-351-4900)
St Paul Park Police Department and Fire Department (651-459-9785)
Woodbury Public Safety (651-714-3600)
White Bear Lake Fire (651-429-8567)
Washington County 9-1-1 Communications does not handle the administrative functions for the public safety agencies we serve. Requests for reports, records, or other administrative questions should be directed to the local agency needed.