Talking Turkey with the Folks at 3-1-1

By Arlene King posted 11-29-2012 18:37

Although Thanksgiving has passed and November is nearly over, this story is about 3-1-1 and 9-1-1  with a light touch of humor!

Posted by Tom Malanfant on Nov 21, 2012 2:26:02 PM

While Thanksgiving has passed and November has nearly ended, this blog posting is still quite relevant, highlighting the complimentary relationship between
3-1-1 and 9-1-1.


As Thanksgiving approaches, I can’t help but remember one of the funniest calls we received when I was managing a 3-1-1 Call Center in Windsor, Ontario.

We had a citizen call for instructions on how to cook a Thanksgiving turkey. While this certainly wasn’t a typical 3-1-1 call, it was intriguing. I recall the operator sharing how she provided general instructions on ensuring the turkey was cooked to the proper temperature and was safe to consume. Our citizen’s question was satisfactorily answered.

While “how to cook a turkey” is an odd request of your local city, the fact of the matter is that citizens are asking local government to do more, and do it quickly, efficiently and cost effectively. Citizens are demanding more access and accountability from local government, too.

Since its inception in Baltimore in October of 1996, “3-1-1” has quickly grown in popularity. Today millions of people across the United States and Canada know to dial 3-1-1 to get help with non-emergency problems in their community, ranging from burned-out traffic lights to graffiti in parks to an annoying dog barking next door.

In cities that have implemented 3-1-1 – such as Baltimore, Chicago, Austin and Calgary – the number of calls to 9-1-1 have been substantially reduced, freeing up time for 9-1-1 operators to handle “real” emergencies. These cities have also implemented robust enterprise software systems to handle all the detailed business processes and workflow associated with handling such calls. Citizens can access 3-1-1 centers by phone, email, text, or even using downloadable mobile apps for their smartphones. Local government is more accessible than ever before.

These 3-1-1 call centers are also instrumental in providing non-emergency assistance to citizens during times of crisis and disaster. When Hurricane Sandy slammed into the East Coast of the United States, numerous cities utilized their 3-1-1 call centers to direct secondary responders to assist residents with such issues as downed tree limbs, flooded streets, and safe shelters for evacuated homeowners and much more. In an article, “North Hempstead lays out recovery plan in aftermath of Superstorm Sandy”, Town Supervisor Jon Kaiman of North Hempstead, NY, talked about how their 3-1-1 system fielded 11,000 calls in the first three days after the storm with a variety of requests from shelter locations, to open gas stations to who to call to cut down a tree. The town’s 3-1-1 system was one of the few call centers up and responding to citizens 24 hours per day.

So the next time you have a question for your local government, whether it’s to find out when they are going to fix the swing at the local playground or cut down a limb from a fallen tree, contact 3-1-1. If you have a question about how to cook your turkey, you might want to try the Turkey Talk-Line®!

Tom Malanfant is a Senior Product Manager for Motorola Solutions and a former 211/311 Call Center Manager for the City of Windsor, Ontario.

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Reposted from Motorola Solutions Blog