3-1-1

3-1-1

The non-emergency telephone number 3-1-1 is a special N-1-1 telephone number in many communities in Canada and the United States that provides quick, easy-to-remember access to non-emergency municipal services or a Citizen Service Center. Dialing this number allows city residents (only in certain cities) to obtain important non-emergency services through a central, all-purpose phone number quickly and effectively.

3-1-1 is intended in part to divert routine inquiries and non-urgent community concerns from the emergency 9-1-1 number. A promotional website for 3-1-1 in Los Angeles described the distinction as follows: "Burning building? Call 9-1-1. Burning Question? Call 3-1-1."[1]

Many cities take 3-1-1 comments through internet or smartphone interfaces. On March 3, 2010, US Federal Chief Information Officer Vivek Kundra announced the creation of a uniform "Open 311" API for these services.[2] The online 311 service SeeClickFix is available across the United States.[3]

Contents

History

Its first use for this purpose was in Baltimore, Maryland, where the service commenced on 2 October 1996. 3-1-1 is intended to connect callers to a call center that can be the same as the 9-1-1 call center, but with 3-1-1 calls assigned a secondary priority, answered only when no 9-1-1 calls are waiting. This system is intended to extend the system such that true emergency callers are answered quickly, without ringing or busy signals.

The largest 3-1-1 operation in service operates in New York City implemented by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg in 2003.

The CRTC formally reserved the use of 3-1-1 for non-emergency municipal services throughout Canada on 5 November 2004. The first Canadian 3-1-1 service opened in Calgary, Alberta on 18 May 2005.

The 311 code was previously used by some telephone companies for testing purposes. In Alberta, 311 was the ANAC number until 1 April 2005 when this was changed to 958-6111 to make way for the present 3-1-1 service.

In former times, "311" was sometimes used as a fictitious area code in Bell System advertisements depicting telephones; often the phone in the advertisement would bear the specific number "Area Code 311 555-2368." This fictitious phone number was used in the 1979 horror film When a Stranger Calls, in the opening of The Rockford Files, and on two episodes of Mission: Impossible second season, episode 22 entitled "The Killing" on the killers phone and, fourth season, episode 12, entitled "Time Bomb" on a phone at a nuclear plant in a fictitious country. The number 311-555-9845 was used for a radio station hotline in episode 1, season 1 of the TV show A.L.F. This area code is also used as the area code for Sunnyvale, California (which is in reality 408) in the 1983 movie WarGames during the "war dialing" sequence where the main character is searching for a video game company to break into.

It was also used in numerous episode of The Bionic Woman as the private phone number of Jaime Sommers in her coach house.

Operation

3-1-1 service is generally implemented at the local level, and in some cities it is also used for various municipal calls.

Examples of calls intended for 3-1-1:

  • dead animal removal
  • debris in roadway
  • illegal burning
  • non-working streetlamps, parking meters, traffic lights
  • noise complaints
  • potholes, sinkholes and utility holes in streets

Availability

United States

3-1-1 is available in several major American cities, including: AkronAlbuquerqueAustinBaltimoreBirminghamCharlotteChattanoogaChicagoColumbus, OhioDallasDenverDetroitEvanstonHartfordHoustonKansas City, MissouriKnoxvilleLas VegasLaredoLittle RockLouisvilleLos AngelesMiamiMilwaukeeMinneapolisMobileNashvilleNew York City[4] •Newton, MA• OrlandoPittsburghPhiladelphiaRichmond, VirginiaRiverside, CaliforniaRochesterSacramentoSan AntonioSan FranciscoSan JoseSomerville, MassachusettsSpringfield, MassachusettsTampa and Washington, D.C..

Limitations

Customers of AT&T's Uverse telephone service cannot make 3-1-1 calls, even in areas where the service is offered.[5]

Canada

The service is available in the following communities (with starting date):

Similar numbers in Europe

Several European countries have adopted, or are in the process of adopting, non-emergency numbers similar to 3-1-1.

Sweden

Sweden has introduced a system where less urgent callers can call 114 14 to get connected to the local police-station. Depending on current load and situation, however, the call could potentially be connected to any station in Sweden. Calls to this number are charged according to the same rates as any other national calls.[7]

Finland

On a yearly level, the dispatchers in Finland's 112 service receive some 800,000 non-urgent calls. In order to curb this problem, which ties up precious resources, a committee proposes that Finland launch a new telephone number—116 115—for such calls. Calls to this number would also be free of charge.[8]

Germany

In Germany 115 is currently introduced as a single access number to communal, regional and federal administrations.

United Kingdom

Currently, the UK government is implementing a plan that when complete will allow all local police departments in England and Wales to be contacted via the single number 101. The number, which costs 15 pence per call from both landlines and mobile phones, is intended for reporting of minor or non-emergency crime.

Usage

In Baltimore, 3-1-1 has been successful in dramatically reducing the cost of city services, but only in conjunction with that city's CitiStat service. Municipal officers of Baltimore do not recommend implementation of 3-1-1 services without first installing CitiStat. CitiStat is essential infrastructure to record and re-direct the service request information received through the 3-1-1 systems.

While Baltimore was the first city to use 311 as a police non-emergency number, in January 1999 Chicago initiated the first comprehensive 3-1-1 system, by providing information and tracking city services from intake to resolution, in addition to taking non-emergency police calls. When the new service was launched, information regarding all city services, service requests, assistance in reaching various city departments and public offices, and a variety of information ranging from information about the city's Blue Bag recycling program to special events schedules could be obtained by calling 3-1-1. This also supplanted the need to remember or find the number (312) 744-5000, which, until then, acted as a switching station for reaching various city departments and employees, as well as Chicago Police non-emergency (dialing this number today directs you to a 3-1-1 center operator from any area code). Since its launch, Chicago 3-1-1 has won numerous national awards, including the [Innovations in American Government Award][9] from the Ash Institute for Democratic Governance and Innovation at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government in 2003. In addition to providing seamless delivery of city services to residents, the call center serves as a backup to the City's 911 call center.

In New York City, 3-1-1 is used by city officials as one of several sources of measurement and information about the performance of city services. Important dates in the history of New York's 3-1-1 service include December 20, 2005, when it received its record high of 240,000 calls, due to the first day of the 2005 New York City transit strike, and June 20, 2007, when it received its 50 millionth call.[1]

In San Francisco, 3-1-1 is the number for the City and County of San Francisco. Like New York City, it provides information for city services, such as transit information. San Francisco 3-1-1 was implemented in 2007 shortly after the launch of the T Third Street Muni light rail line. However, it has come under substantial criticism of late because the 3-1-1 system charges the financially-strapped Muni system $1.96 for every Muni-related phone call. Some have criticized Mayor Gavin Newsom for stealing Muni funds into the 3-1-1 system. [2]

In the city of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County, North Carolina, 3-1-1 is also used to find lost pets, get answers to questions about taxes, complain about needed roadway maintenance, get information about flood conditions, make non-emergency police reports, and other government services.[10]

References

  1. ^ Akron: Customer Service Response - 311
  2. ^ Open 311 | The White House
  3. ^ http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2010/03/03/open-311
  4. ^ 3-Digit Numbers Used in New York City
  5. ^ Terms of Service - AT&T U-verse - Digital TV, High Speed Internet & Phone
  6. ^ CTV Winnipeg- Operators are now standing by at 3-1-1 service - CTV News
  7. ^ Questions and answers regarding 11414 from the swedish police
  8. ^ "116 115 in, 10 022 out, 112 quieter?". blog.anta.net. 2008-06-12. ISSN 1797-1993. http://blog.anta.net/2008/06/12/116115in-10022out-112quieter/. Retrieved 2008-06-12. 
  9. ^ Government Innovators Network: 311 System, 2005-05-18 09:37:55
  10. ^ Charlotte Mecklenburg 311 Brochure, accessed 5 January 2009 13:03 PST

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