MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The Minnesota Department of Public Safety says you can depend on calling 911 during this pandemic.

So many of us are connected to our devices, whether it’s a cell phone or logged in on a computer, especially during this time at home. When people overload a network it can cause congestion, but that won’t happen with public safety says DPS Director of Emergency Communication Networks, Dana Wahlberg.

“It was first in 9/11 we noticed responders were not able to communicate with one another, they were finding challenges with network congestion,” Wahlberg said.

She said that event led to a dedicated communications platform for emergency first responders. In addition, Wahlberg says cell phone providers have done something similar.

“Every carrier has special network in place to deliver a 911 call and nothing else is riding on that same network,” Wahlberg said.

But call congestion has become an issue on commercial networks across the country. According to Wahlberg, every day there are double the number of calls that typically happen on the busiest call day of the year: Mother’s Day. Online gaming is up 75% and 33% of calls are longer than normal.

They’re not asking anyone to reduce their streaming or online surfing but know services could be slow.

Wahlberg says they’re working on increasing capacity. And she warns against calling 911 if you can’t get through to someone.

“That can become very problematic when 911 call centers are fielding calls just to see if they’re working,” Wahlberg said.

Wahlberg did say you may still find congestion while calling a crisis line. If it’s an emergency and you experience trouble making that call, that’s when you should hang up and call 911.

Jennifer Mayerle

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