Emergency Preparedness and 211

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Every day, 211 is a vital source of social services information to people across the province.  211 is a telephone helpline (call 2-1-1) and website that provides information on and referrals to Ontario’s community, social, health-related and government services.

They can help callers understand what services and government benefits exist and explain how to apply.  211 is answered 24 hours a day, every day of the year across Ontario; they list over 60,000 community and government programs and services.

The service can also provide an interpreter in over 150 languages; when 211 answers the phone, just ask for the language you want and hold the line.

During a community emergency, 211 can also be used to share information with residents of your community—the 211 service receives information from the Emergency Information Officer (EIO), either by email or by fax.

So when a caller asks, “We are having a severe storm in my town, can you give me information on road closures and possible safety concerns?” the highly trained operators can answer with information supplied and updated by your municipality.

The graphic shows how 211 can be utilized for emergency information. The information is collected by the EIO, and with assistance of members of the Emergency Control Group, this information is sent to 211 Call Centres in Ontario. As soon as it is received, operators can begin answering questions about the situation in your community. It does not have to be a serious or Declared Emergency for this service to be utilized—211 can be helpful in sharing information about road closures, water advisories or program cancellations in your community.

As citizens become aware that they can call 211 for information regarding an emergency, it will greatly reduce the need to answer these calls by municipal staff, who are already busy with other issues during an emergent situation. This service provides a fast and efficient means of delivering emergency information with an easy to remember number— just call 2-1-1.

Please take a moment this week to share this information with your colleagues and family members; the more people who know how to use 211 in emergencies, the easier and more efficient the dissemination of important emergency information will become in our communities.

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