The college basketball championship in Minneapolis this year means thousands of people will come to the Twin Cities for the event and activities in the days prior to the games. The Minnesota Department of Public Safety (DPS) is providing some advice to Minnesotans and visitors from across the country to help them safely enjoy this once-in-a-lifetime experience.

“Minnesota is excited to welcome basketball fans from across the country for the Final Four,” said DPS Commissioner John Harrington. “Federal, state and local partners have worked hard to ensure this will be a safe event, but it’s everyone’s responsibility to be vigilant and mindful of personal choices that could affect your safety.”

Don’t Pass on a Ride. Make a Sober Game Plan — Office of Traffic Safety (OTS)

Final Four fans and basketball enthusiasts of all ages rally around their favorite teams and celebrate the premier college basketball tournament in the country. Minnesotans and out-of-state visitors will be enjoying festivities throughout Final Four weekend and watching the hoops action in-person and at house parties and local establishments. If drinking is part of the plan, people need to make a sober game plan to make it home safely.

  • Plan for a safe ride — designate a sober driver; use a cab, alternative car service or public transportation; or stay at the location of the party.
  • Speak up — offer to be a designated driver or be available to pick up a loved one anytime, anywhere. If you see an impaired person about to get behind the wheel, get them a safe ride home.
  • Buckle up — the best defense in any type of crash.
  • Report drunk driving — call 911 when witnessing impaired driving behavior. Be prepared to provide location, license plate number and observed dangerous behavior.

DPS-OTS’ advertising campaign is reminding Minnesotans and Twin Cities visitors on the importance of creating a sober game plan.

Heads Up as You Travel Around the Twin Cities — Office of Traffic Safety (OTS)

An estimated 94,000 nonresident visitors will be coming to the Twin Cities for Final Four weekend and the events surrounding the games. With the increased activity, both drivers and pedestrians need to pay special attention to traffic and people crossing streets throughout the metropolitan area.

Guidance for motorists:

  • Treat every corner as a crosswalk and stop for pedestrians crossing at all corners and crosswalks whether marked or unmarked — this is the law.
  • Drive at safe speeds and scan for pedestrians.
  • Pay attention — driver distraction is a leading cause of pedestrian/vehicle crashes.
  • Use extra caution when turning to look for pedestrians in blind spots.

Guidance for pedestrians:

  • Cross at a corner, a marked crosswalk or where a traffic light is present.
  • Pay attention, look both ways before crossing, and make eye contact with drivers before entering the road to ensure they see you.
  • Continue to look both ways while crossing; distracted drivers aren’t looking out for pedestrians.
  • Never cross in the middle of the road or walk down an interstate.
  • Wear bright colored clothing when walking at night.

Gambling — Alcohol and Gambling Enforcement Division (AGED)

DPS-AGED agents remind establishments, Minnesotans and visitors that sports gambling is illegal in our state.

As a general rule, if you’re giving or accepting money or something of value and you’re paying out prizes, it’s illegal. Establishments not only face criminal charges, but the bars and restaurants where this occurs can face regulatory sanctions, fines, and have their licenses suspended or revoked.

However, new to Minnesota are legal sports-themed tip boards. The law allows licensed charitable organizations that conduct lawful gambling to sell tickets for sports-themed tip boards.

No one other than the licensed charitable organization is allowed to sell the boards. Legal tip boards will have the Minnesota symbol on them. All other boards are illegal.

Fake ID/Underage Drinking — Alcohol and Gambling Enforcement Division

Students from across the country will be visiting establishments throughout the Twin Cities during the Final Four.

In recent years, fake IDs have become increasingly sophisticated and harder to recognize.

Bar owners and staff can be held criminally and civilly liable for serving customers under 21 if the minor is injured or killed in an alcohol-related incident or if that person kills or injures someone else.

DPS-AGED reminds establishment staff to check the ID of each customer ordering alcohol.

Underage drinking and driving is also a long-standing concern in cities across Minnesota. Teen drivers (13 to 20 years old) who tested positive for alcohol (2013 – 2017):

  • DWIs – 6,609
  • Fatal Crashes – 21
  • Fatalities – 23

Sex Trafficking — Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA)

It is against the law to purchase someone for sex. The BCA-led Minnesota Human Trafficking Investigators Task Force will lead a multi-agency effort to find and arrest those who try to buy or sell sex trafficking victims.

If you witness suspected sex trafficking, call 911. If you or someone you know is being trafficked, get help by calling the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888 or send the text HELP to 233733.

Get Your High from Games, Not Drugs — Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA)

Illicit opioid drug use can be a game-ender. Your supplier has no idea which dose would kill you, and neither will you.

  • Drug evidence submissions to the BCA drug lab containing suspected Fentanyl jumped 190 percent in the last four years.
  • Drug addiction can happen to your friends, co-workers and family. Recognize the signs  and get them the help they need.

Need help? Call if You Can, Text if You Can’t — Emergency Communication Networks (ECN)

When an emergency takes place, our first instinct is to call 911. But Text-to-911 is a new way to get help. The service is available to everyone within the state of Minnesota, even those with an out-of-state phone number.

Text-to-911 should only be used when a person can’t safely make a voice call:

  • When someone must stay quiet to remain safe.
  • If peer pressure is strong.
  • To report domestic violence, home invasions, human trafficking, and agitated/suicidal individuals.

Text-to-911 can be the first contact option for individuals who are deaf, deafblind, hard of hearing or those with speech impairments. Remember: Location is not as accurate with text as it is with a call.

If there is an emergency and you cannot call 911, take these steps:

  1. Enter the numbers 911 in the “To” field.
  2. Text your exact location and type of emergency.
  3. Send the message.
  4. Promptly answer questions and follow instructions.

TIPS: Use simple words. Do not use abbreviations, emojis, pictures or slang. Do not text and drive!

Texting 911 with a false report is a crime. If you accidentally send a text to 911, send another text, or call 911 to let the dispatcher know that there is no emergency. Emergency response may be lengthened due to the time it takes for a text to 911 to be typed and sent.

Safety in Crowds and Suspicious Behavior — Homeland Security and Emergency Management (HSEM)

The Twin Cities will soon look and feel drastically different once the Final Four festivities begin and thousands of visitors arrive. Remember: If you “See Something, Say Something.” Don’t leave it to someone else. Your call could be the one that makes the difference.

  • Large crowds provide convenient cover for suspicious behavior. Stay vigilant at all times.
  • Know what is happening in your surroundings, along with entry and exit points in the event of an emergency.
  • If you see something or someone out of place, report it right away.
  • Notice someone entering a restricted area, taking pictures of entry/exit ways, or acting strangely? Speak up!
  • Find an object that was left behind? Do not touch it! Move a safe distance away and tell someone.

Learn more about the “See Something, Say Something” campaign.

DPS-HSEM is partnering with local, state and federal partners during the Final Four to provide logistics and operations support so law enforcement and other agencies can respond to an incident or threat. DPS-HSEM will be monitoring events and will fully activate the State Emergency Operations Center if needed.

Prevent Potentially Deadly Careless Smoking Fires — State Fire Marshal (SFM) 

Careless smoking is the leading cause of fatal fires in Minnesota. Whether staying with friends or family or stepping outside of a local establishment or hotel to smoke, keep the following in mind:

  • Only smoke in designated areas.
  • Dispose of materials in designated containers. They should be sturdy and filled with sand or water.
  • Don’t toss cigarettes into bushes or potted plants.

Staying in a Hotel or Rental Home? Visiting a Bar? Know How to Get Out — State Fire Marshal 

Nobody expects the hotel or rental home they’re staying in or the bar where they are enjoying the big game will start on fire. But it happens. And when it does, quickly getting outside is key. Identify exits and emergency exits when you first walk into an establishment or check into your temporary home away from home. Remember that if there is a fire, the door you came in may not be the safest — or quickest — way out.

Sharing the Road with Motorcycles — Minnesota Motorcycle Safety Center (MMSC) 

Spring is here and motorcyclists are back on Minnesota roads. Spring brings deadly hazards to motorcyclists: snow run-off freezes at night, pavement is uneven and there is sand and gravel at intersections and turns. Other motorists aren’t used to seeing motorcycles on the road after a long winter. DPS-MSC officials offer these reminders:

  • Motorists are advised to watch carefully for motorcycles in traffic and always look twice before turning or changing lanes.
  • Riders are advised to wear full, brightly-colored protective gear, including a DOT-approved helmet.
  • Riders should travel at safe speeds, pay attention, maintain a minimum two-second following distance and ride sober.
  • Riders are encouraged to take a training class, regardless of their experience.