Ask a Trooper: How can I summon help if I can't communicate?

Writer's husband can't speak or type.

Sgt. Jesse Grabow

Question: I appreciated your article on “How To Get Help Despite a 9-1-1 Outage” but I was wondering if you could address what someone, such as my spouse should do if needing to call 911 and cannot speak or type as both of those abilities are impaired. We’ve been thinking about getting a medical alert system.

Answer: I would agree that a medical alert device might be the best option in this type of situation. There are different options, and some of them will alert family members at another location who could then contact the 9-1-1 call center in the jurisdiction where the person in distress lives to ensure help is on the way. The problem with the medical alert devices is that there is typically a single address associated with them, so if this person was not at home when pressing their help button, it may not be helpful.

For your situation, I would recommend reaching out to the 9-1-1 call center manager that would receive the call in your jurisdiction. The computer aided dispatch system premise file database might be able to flag a phone number, or provide other helpful information with an address that will provide background information to alert the 9-1-1 call taker if they receive a call with an open line from a specific number. This would assume you are normally at home, and the person who is not able to speak or text uses a single wireless phone.

From my experience, 9-1-1 call centers are very willing to work with citizens within their jurisdiction who feel they need additional support when a 9-1-1 call is placed and someone is not able to communicate.

Here is a link to the Public Safety Answering Points. Ask to speak with the call center manager and advise them of your situation.


Send questions concerning traffic-related laws or issues in Minnesota to: Trp. Jesse Grabow – Minnesota State Patrol , 1000 Highway 10 W., Detroit Lakes, MN 56501-2205. Follow him on Twitter @MSPPIO_NW or reach him at

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