Saif Benjaafar Awarded Grant to Develop New Emergency Response System

The National Science Foundation has awarded an NSF Civic Innovation Challenge Planning Grant to Saif Benjaafar, Distinguished McKnight University Professor and Head of the Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering (ISyE) as part of the first phase of the NSF Civic Innovation Challenge.

The project aims to develop an emergency response system, with targeted support based on the immediate needs of the caller. Benjaafar's research is motivated by the ongoing national conversation about how local agencies are addressing crisis situations.

"This project will work to develop an organizationally unified and technologically integrated emergency response that makes it easier for the public to identify who to call for help and for the appropriate personnel to be dispatched to the scene, depending on the situation," writes Benjaafar and Thomas Fisher in their abstract for the project. Fisher is the director of the Minnesota Design Center and a professor of the School of Architecture at the University of Minnesota.

Benjaafar and Fisher will be teaming up with multiple entities responsible for the 911 network, including Hennepin County, the Hennepin County Sheriff's Office, and the City of Minneapolis. Together, they will examine technology tools, like artificial intelligence and machine learning, to help responders assess an emergency situation and route it to the right professionals. The goal is to create a new model that can be replicated around the nation.

The support from the planning grant will allow the team to compete for Stage 2 of the Civic Innovation Challenge, “a research and action competition that aims to fund ready-to-implement, research-based pilot projects that have the potential for scalable, sustainable, and transferable impact on community-identified priorities.” For more information about the CIVIC Innovation Challenge, visit