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National Examples of 211 as an Emergency Response System

In September 2008, Hurricane Ike caused significant rain in the Midwest over a period of days, which led to flooding along and around the river banks. In Illinois the amount of rain was considerable causing flash flood alerts all over the northeastern region and across Illinois. In a particularly hard-hit area, Wheaton (DuPage County) received 10.51 inches of rain in a two day period (Midwestern Regional Climate Center). Even rainfall near O'Hare International Airport amounted to 6.64 inches in one day, setting a record (Midwestern Regional Climate Center). This weather event is an example of when an entire region could benefit from an information and referral system like 211. For instance in New Orleans and in Corpus Christi, Texas, 211 assisted in evacuation procedures.

  • New Orleans, LA – Hurricane Gustav, a tropical cyclone, was a potential threat to Louisiana especially around the gulf coast in late August 2008. On the day before the Hurricane was anticipated to hit inland, the Department of Social Services urged citizens to dial 211 if they were seeking shelter within Louisiana. (Hurricane Gustav Resources)
  • Corpus Christi, TX- Hurricane Ike was a destructive tropical storm throughout the Caribbean, mainly in Cuba and Haiti, and also caused significant damage along the coast of Texas. 211 was utilized by the State as a way to assist in evacuating special needs residents, pets, and all other residents who dialed 211 to identify themselves (MSNBC).

Additional examples of 211 being used as an emergency response tool are below.

211 Service during the California Wildfires, October 2007

In late October 2007 twenty separate wildfires consumed the land, and six counties that were declared disaster areas in Southern California: Los Angeles, Riverside, Orange, San Bernardino, San Diego and Ventura. As of October 29, 2007, the fires had burned 518,000 acres in the seven southern counties, or two percent of the counties' total land area, but 13.7% of San Diego County. 369,000 acres burned in San Diego County, accounting for 71.4 percent of the burned acreage in the counties eligible for federal aid. (Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics).

211 Service makes a difference
211 served as a reliable source of information for residents and county departments which informed people on evacuations and best routes to safety, especially after several highways were closed down. When 9-1-1 was overwhelmed with calls, 211 was the alternative to assist with emergencies.

In a matter of 5 days between October 21-25th, 2007
1) 130,000 calls were handled by 211 operators, with one day peaking at 41,000 calls

2) Majority of the reasons for calls were split between: Evacuation (27%), Safe to return home (22%) and Information on fire updates (19%)

In October 2007 211 was a fully operational system that provided two-way communication during the disaster. With the system in place, timely information was available to residents and emergency responders. One key benefit also highlighted was that 9-1-1 was relieved by 211and 911 focused mostly on responding to emergencies rather than providing emergency information to callers.

Bibliography
211 California, United Way of America, "Trial by Fire: How 211's Regional Response to the 2007 Southern California Wildfires Underscored the Need for a Statewide Network", February 2008
Associated Press, SF Gate San Francisco Chronicle, "Worst wildfires in recent California history", Monday, October 22, 2007, http://www.sfgate.com/cgibin/article.cgi?f=/n/a/2007/10/22/state/n181734D34.DTL&feed=rss.news
Whitcomb, Dan, "California history, culture haunted by wildfires", May 16, 2007
http://www.reuters.com/article/latestCrisis/idUSN15310243

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, "California Wildfires, An employment and wage profile of affected counties", October 2007, http://www.bls.gov/opub/ils/pdf/opbils63.pdf

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