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Safety tips

Learn safety information that's easy to remember and use.

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When to call 911

Call 911 to report an emergency. If you’re not sure if a situation is a real emergency, call 911 and let the dispatcher determine whether to send emergency help.

Examples of an emergency:

  • A crime, especially if in progress
  • A car crash, especially if someone is injured
  • A medical emergency, such as someone who is unconscious, gasping for air or not breathing, experiencing an allergic reaction, having chest pain, having uncontrollable bleeding, or any other symptoms that require immediate medical attention

When you call 911, be prepared to answer the questions, including:

  • The location of the emergency, including the street address
  • The phone number you’re calling from
  • The type of the emergency
  • Details about the emergency, such as a physical description of a person who may have committed a crime, description of a fire, or symptoms of a person having a medical emergency

Be prepared to follow any instructions you get. The 911 dispatcher can tell you what to do in an emergency until help arrives.

Don’t hang up until the dispatcher instructs you to.

If you dial 911 by mistake, or if a child in your home dials 911 when no emergency exists, don’t hang up. Instead, tell the dispatcher what happened.

Survival Through Overdose Prevention (STOP)

Learn about the Sheriff’s STOP campaign.

Medicine drop off sites

The illegal use of prescription pills is a national public safety crisis. Most people who are addicted say they found their supply of pills in the medicine cabinets of friends and family.

The Hennepin County Sheriff's Office is committed to investigating and arresting individuals involved in the illegal drug trade. The most effective approach to this crisis is to encourage prevention and treatment.

Help end the epidemic

Store medicines in a secure place and monitor your supplies. Painkillers like OxyContin, Vicodin, and Tylenol with codeine are among the most commonly abused medications.

Properly dispose of expired or unwanted medicine. Don’t pour medications down the drain or flush them down the toilet. Instead, drop them off at a county medicine disposal site.

Take these precautions

Store guns in a locked place, unloaded, and out of the reach and sight of children. Store ammunition in a separate locked location, out of the reach and sight of children. Keep the keys and combination hidden.

When a gun is not in its lock box, keep it in your line of sight. Don’t leave a gun on a nightstand, table or other place where a child can find it. Teach kids never to touch a gun and to immediately tell an adult – or call 911 – if they find one. Explain to kids that a gun they might see on television or a video game is different from a real gun that can really hurt people.

Talk to grandparents, neighbors, and the parents of friends your children visit about safe gun storage practices.

If a visitor has a gun in a backpack, briefcase, handbag or an unlocked car, provide them with a locked place to hold it while they are in your home.

Equip all guns with effective, child-resistant gun locks. You can either buy a gun lock or request one at the sheriff’s gun permit office:

Gun permit unit 
Minneapolis City Hall
350 South Fifth Street, Room 22
Minneapolis, MN 55415

You can use swap spots for your safety 

The sheriff’s office has created swap spots - designated public places where residents can exchange items that they’ve bought and sold online.

Swap spots are available Monday-Friday, 8 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. (except holidays) in the lobby of three sheriff’s office facilities:

  • Sheriff's water patrol, 4141 Shoreline Drive, Spring Park, MN, 55384
  • Enforcement services division, 9401 83rd Avenue North, Brooklyn Park, MN, 55445
  • Public Safety Facility, 401 South Fourth Avenue, Minneapolis, MN, 55415

A deputy won't monitor, log or facilitate transactions.

You can request a deputy be present during a swap spot exchange, when you arrive. The sheriff’s office will try to accommodate the request. The swap spot locations don’t guarantee a greater level of safety compared to other public locations. They’re an additional option when people want to schedule a transaction in a public place.

You can use swap spots for other legal exchanges such as exchanging property or for child visitation exchanges.


There are those who use online transactions to commit crime.

Take precautions including:

  • Tell a friend or family member where you are going and when you will return.
  • If possible, have someone accompany you.
  • Conduct exchanges during daylight hours, in a public place.
  • Bring a cell phone and make sure it is turned on.
  • Trust your instincts. Cancel plans for a transaction if you identify any red flags or have additional concerns for your safety.

Sex trafficking is the buying and selling of people for sex, and among the fastest growing criminal industries in the world. It happens throughout the United States and in Hennepin County. Crossing a border is not necessary to be considered sex trafficking.

The sheriff's office investigates and arrests people involved in the prostitution and trafficking of others. The sheriff's office works with law enforcement and community partners on prevention and education efforts. We train hotel and motel workers so that they can recognize potential signs of sex trafficking and learn how to report suspicious activity.

Sex Trafficking: Spotting the Signs (PDF)

Flood safety

Before a flood

Prepare yourself and your family for a flood by having a communication plan and emergency kit packed. Have enough water, food, medicine, and other basic supplies to last three days. Have enough batteries for a portable radio and chargers for electronic devices. Pack for pets if you have them.

During a flood

If a flash flood is imminent, move to higher ground as soon as possible. Stay off the road. As little as six inches of water can cause drivers to lose control of their vehicles, and twelve inches of water will float most cars.

In flooded conditions be careful where you walk, using a stick to test the ground in front of you. Six inches of moving water can knock over an adult.

Don’t enter rooms where outlets or electrical cords are submerged as there is a possibility of being electrocuted.

After a flood

Avoid flood waters. They can contain toxins. Make sure water is safe before using it.

If you had to evacuate, don’t return home until authorities say it is safe.

Stay off of flooded roads and out of disaster areas.

Be cautious in buildings that were flooded since the flood might have damaged or weakened the foundation.

Swimming safety

Online Water Safety Checklist (PDF)

Watch your kids

Drowning is the leading cause of accidental death for children under five. In 70% of cases where young children drowned, one or both parents were nearby. Avoid distractions like using cell phones or talking with other adults.

Supervise your kids even when lifeguards are on duty. Lifeguards watch many people and can’t focus only on children.

Maintain visual contact with your children while they’re in the water.

Wear a life jacket

Don’t rely on water wings or other inflatable devices. Choose a United States Coast Guard-approved life jacket.

Weak swimmers or non-swimmers can wear life jackets in lakes, swimming pools, and any body of water.

Children who wear life jackets still need adult supervision.

Learn to swim

Safety experts recommend kids learn to swim by age 4.

Learn about safety equipment and keep a shepherd’s hook near a pool for rescues.

Learn about recommendations for pool drains. Teach children not to play with drains.

Learn CPR.

Public health events such as infectious disease outbreaks like COVID-19 can cause emotional distress and anxiety. Feeling anxious, confused, overwhelmed, or powerless is common during an infectious disease outbreak, especially in the face of a virus with which the general public may be unfamiliar. As part of our agency’s strategy to react to the COVID-19 pandemic, Sheriff Hutchinson directed the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office’s Tri Wellness unit to develop resources to help our employees deal with the stress of this challenging time. He then asked that these resources be shared with the public.  

“The COVID-19 outbreak has disrupted life for everyone and caused enormous stress and anxiety,” said Sheriff David P. Hutchinson. “Studies have shown that stress and anxiety can have many negative effects on a person’s overall health, which is why I created the Tri Wellness unit to help my employees stay mentally, physically, and spiritually healthy. At a time like this, everyone deserves a little help coping with stress, which is why we are sharing these resources with you today.”

Tri Wellness’ Tips for Emotional Well-Being During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Everyone reacts differently to stressful situations. How you respond to the outbreak can depend on your background, the things that make you different from other people, and the community you live in.

Stress during an infectious disease outbreak can include:

  • Fear and worry about your own health and the health of your loved ones
  • Changes in sleep or eating patterns
  • Difficulty sleeping or concentrating
  • Worsening of chronic health problems
  • Increased use of alcohol, tobacco, or other drugs
  • Irritability
  • Increased depressive symptoms
  • Increased anxiety symptoms

Coping tips

People that are feeling emotional distress related to COVID-19 can take actions to help support themselves and others.

  • Set a limit on media consumption, including social media, local, or national news.
  • Stay active. Make sure to get enough sleep and rest. Stretch, exercise, and make time to unwind.
  • Stay hydrated and avoid excessive amounts of caffeine or alcohol.
  • Eat healthy foods when possible.
  • Connect with loved ones and others who may be experiencing stress about the outbreak. Talk about your feelings and enjoy conversation unrelated to the outbreak.
  • Read, listen to a book on tape.
  • Take a bath, shower, or practice meditation.
  • Do something nice for someone else.
  • Practice gratitude and choose a positive mindset.
  • Get accurate health information from reputable sources, including the Centers for Disease Control or the Minnesota Department of Health, or your local healthcare provider.
  • COVID-19 Hotlines: (Health questions: 651-201-3920 or 1-800-657-3903) (Schools and child care questions: 651-297-1304 or 1-800-657-3504)
  • If you’re experiencing emotional distress related to COVID-19 and you are in Hennepin County, please call Community Outreach for Psychiatric Emergencies (COPE) at 612-596-1223. If a child 17 or under is experiencing problems, please call Child Crisis at 612-348-2233. Get information on mental health emergenciesIf somebody is in immediate physical danger, please call 911.
  • Outside of Hennepin County, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255) or your local crisis line.
  • For coping tools and resources, visit Lifeline suicide prevention or Vibrant Emotional Health's Safe Space.

To support your child:

  • Take time to talk with your child or teen about the COVID-19 outbreak. Answer questions and share facts about COVID-19 in a way that your child or teen can understand.
  • Reassure your child or teen that they are safe. Let them know it is okay if they feel upset.
  • Share with them how you deal with your own stress so that they can learn how to cope from you.
  • Limit your family’s exposure to news coverage of the event, including social media. Children may misinterpret what they hear and can be frightened about something they do not understand.
  • Try to keep up with regular routines. If schools are closed, create a schedule for learning activities and relaxing or fun activities.
  • Be a role model.  Take breaks, get plenty of sleep, exercise, and eat well. Connect with your friends and family members.

For responders

Responding to COVID-19 can take an emotional toll on you. There are things you can do to reduce secondary traumatic stress (STS) reactions:

  • Acknowledge that STS can impact anyone helping families after a traumatic event.
  • Learn the symptoms including physical (fatigue, illness) and mental (fear, withdrawal, guilt).
  • Allow time for you and your family to recover from responding to the pandemic.
  • Create a menu of personal self-care activities that you enjoy, such as spending time with friends and family, exercising, or reading a book.
  • Take a break from media coverage of COVID-19.
  • Ask for help if you feel overwhelmed or concerned that COVID-19 is affecting your ability to care for your family and patients as you did before the outbreak.

Hennepin County resources

  • COPE (adults, 18+) (are not conducting visits right now): (612) 596-1223 (phone calls only at this time, no face to face crisis assessments until further notice)
  • Child Crisis (children, 17 years and younger): (612) 348-2233
  • Withdrawal Management (Detox): (612) 348-4111
  • Reentry House (Crisis Housing for Adults): (612) 869-2411
  • Opportunity Center (Food, Mental Health Care, Showers, Lockers, Phones – 7am-4:30pm): (612) 204-8300
  • St. Steven’s Emergency Homeless Shelters: (612) 874-0311
  • Mental Health Center (telephone diagnostic assessments, therapy, and psychiatry) (612)596-9438

Mental wellbeing virtual meetings and support groups

For families

Mental health and crisis numbers (24/7, free and confidential)

The Hennepin County Sheriff's Office offers free stickers to quickly convey important information to first responders who may visit your home. Four different stickers are available: An Occupant May Be Autistic or Special Needs, An Occupant May Be Deaf or Hearing Impaired, An Occupant May Have Dementia or Alzheimer's, and An Occupant May Be a Person with a Disability. 

Request a free sticker

The Hennepin County Sheriff's Office also supports the Vitals™ App: A Bluetooth beacon that individuals with special needs carry, which gives their important information to the Hennepin County Deputies that are there to help. For more information, visit the Vitals™ App

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