About the Flood Calls Project
The Flood Calls project came about after the Grand Forks Public Safety Answering Point moved to an all-digital recording system for their 911 calls. Recognizing that the phone calls from the day of the flood were historically valuable, the Grand Forks Police Department donated the old Dictaphone machine and tape to the Department of Special Collections in November 2007. In tandem with other UND departments and individuals, Special Collections worked to digitize the calls and make them available on the Web.
Many people were needed to make this project a reality:
- Lt. Bob Johnson of the Grand Forks Police Department, who saw to it that the Department of Special Collections received the Dictaphone machine and tape
- Will Martin, Web Services Librarian at the Chester Fritz Library, who led this project’s technological implementation
- Students in English 428: Digital Humanities, as well as the Department of Special Collections, who assisted with processing the data and writing abstracts of each call: Lucas Amundson, Kameron Binstock, Amber Bouret, Samantha Criswell, Nathan Guillemette, Erin Lurie, Emily Mell, Matthew Nelson, Samuel O’Donnell, Christina Phipps, Daniel Sauerwein, Tyler Todd
- Wilbur Stolt, now retired Director of Libraries at UND, who enthusiastically supported the project
The Flood of '97 was a defining moment in Grand Forks history, and we believe that adding these 911 calls to the historical record will be useful to historians, researchers in social sciences, and of interest to the public more broadly. Thanks to everyone who assisted us in bring the project to fruition.
- Q: Doesn't posting these calls raise privacy issues?
- A: Under state law, calls to 911 are considered public interactions with no reasonable expectation of privacy. At the same time, the library wished to be sensitive to privacy concerns. Though the full calls are available for anyone to listen to, we omitted the names of private individuals from the abstracts, or in some cases referred to them by first name only. Since search engines (such as Google) index text, rather than audio, this makes it highly unlikely that any given call will appear in search results associated with an individual's name. We did refer to city officials and other public figures by their full names where applicable.
- Lastly, some calls contained more sensitive information than others, notably a number of calls involving domestic violence. Those calls have not been released to the public at this time. These are being reviewed on a case-by-case basis.