Crisis Event? Government 311 Contact Center to the Rescue!

Hurricanes? Mass electrical outages? Coronavirus testing sites? How can city leaders coordinate the centralization of emergency content for the public? It’s 311 contact centers to the rescue!

City leaders are increasing the inclusion of the 311 non-emergency contact center operations into their crisis emergency communications strategy and reaching out to the media to advise the public to call the 311 contact center operations during catastrophic events. The benefits of driving the public to contact 311 for customer support allow the city’s 911 centers to focus on active emergencies, ensures consistency and accuracy of messaging and provides real-time data and stakeholder reports identifying the public’s concerns or complaints trends.

The local government 311 contact center model has been in existence for over 20 years and helps the public to separate 911 emergency calls from 311 non-emergency inquiries. Previously, calls to 911 systems in U.S. cities were overwhelmed by costly and time-consuming non-emergency calls. They ranged from frivolous (my cat won’t come down from the tree) to legitimate concerns that didn’t require an immediate emergency response, such as potholes, illegally parked cars or missed trash.

In 1996, the City of Baltimore decided to do something about the problem. The city launched the country’s first 311 non-emergency phone hotline, a pilot project supported by a $300,000 Department of Justice grant. Since the first launch of 311, there are over 200 similar local/state operations across North America.

Please remember to leverage your City’s 311 contact center operations so residents, businesses, or visitors can receive fast, consistent, and accurate information and support during a crisis event (i.e. weather, public safety, and public health).

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