The Minneapolis 911 center was today awarded the "2008 911 Outstanding Call Center Award," a national award presented by the E9-1-1 Institute in Washington, D.C. The Minneapolis center was honored for its work during the Aug. 1, 2007 collapse of the I-35W Bridge.

The Minneapolis 911 center was a key part of the emergency response to the bridge collapse. During the first two hours after the collapse, the center received 505 emergency calls, including 51 from the scene of the bridge collapse. Although this was three times the normal call volume, the 911 center was able to communicate seamlessly with emergency organizations from the city of Minneapolis and Hennepin County, responding with remarkable speed and professionalism.

"We all knew that our 911 staff is the best at what they do -- playing a critical public safety role for the people of Minneapolis," said Mayor R.T. Rybak. "It's great to see that they're now being recognized on a national stage. The importance of their work came into sharp focus during the bridge collapse, but it was really just a reminder of how lucky we are to have such a great team on the job around the clock, every day."

"When you think of emergency responders, you often think of the police officer or the firefighter on the scene," said City Council Member Don Samuels, who chairs the council's Public Safety and Regulatory Services Committee. "But our 911 center and staff are the invisible backbone of public safety. Our residents know that there's one place they can always turn in an emergency, and that's 911. Reliable service is easy to take for granted, and that's why it's rewarding to see our dependable 911 staff get the recognition they deserve."

"This is a real honor, to be recognized among the thousands of 911 centers around the country," said John Dejung, director of the Minneapolis 911 center. "Our staff knows that the work they do matters every day. It's rarely an easy job, but playing a key role in protecting the public, and even saving lives, is the reason our people take on the challenge. It's humbling to be chosen for this significant award, but I also know our people deserve it for the remarkable work they do."

When the bridge collapsed at 6 p.m. on Aug. 1, there were 13 operators and dispatchers on duty in the 911 center. Following the collapse, many off-duty employees came back to work to help. As the emergency response unfolded at the bridge scene, the 911 center helped process 113,000 radio transmissions on the regional 800 MHz trunked radio system that connected emergency responders. Even though there were tens of thousands of transmissions, only one high-priority transmission received a busy signal in the first six hours of the incident.

The Minneapolis Emergency Communications Center (the full name of the 911 center) answers about 650,000 phone calls per year, helping anyone in Minneapolis get help with emergencies ranging from fires and police calls to medical problems. The center has a staff of 87 employees who take emergency calls around the clock, seven days a week.

The E9-1-1 Institute, which presented the award, is a not-for-profit organization that provides support to the Congressional E9-1-1 Caucus. One of the missions of the institute is to promote public education and awareness of 911 and emergency communications issues.