Safety tips

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

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Dialing 911

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.

Prescription drug abuse prevention

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. Check medicine disposal hours and locations.

Gun safety in the home

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

Safety for online transactions

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 prevention

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.

Water safety

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

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.

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