Terre Pruitt's Blog

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311 Can Save The Day And Possibly A Life

Posted by terrepruitt on February 1, 2014

The other day prior to the start of my Nia class a student walked in sharing a situation and asked who to call. The group of students gathered suggested she call 911. I was on the other side of the room preparing to teach so I am not certain, but I thought she said had been, but could not get through. Then she asked, “Who should I call?” since it was NOT an emergency situation I suggested she call 311. One of my students said, “You mean 411?” And I said, “No. 411 is information, I mean 311. It is the police but it is a non-emergency number.”

Apparently this group was not familiar with this service. The conclusion reached by the group was: call 911 and ask them what to do. That is exactly the type of call the 311 is designed to handle. 311 is there to assist in NON-EMERGENCY situations that may require municipal services. So it is not exactly police, but municipal services. It is there to allow people access to public services, such as police, but in situations that are NOT emergencies. After experiencing a group of people who was not familiar with this public service I asked more people if they were aware of this number and I was very surprised that most of the people I asked were not familiar. So that prompted me to write this post. The number 3-1-1 is available in a lot of major cities in the United States and communities in Canada. Now, remember this is a number you can call when IT IS NOT AN EMERGENCY. So, if you call it and it is not available in your area you can always call the local police number for instructions and information. Since it is NOT an emergency you have time and the mindfulness to research the correct number you should be calling instead of 911. The number 911 is for EMERGENCIES and if used in non-emergency situations could be considered a crime. While I think if you were truly trying to help someone or something you probably wouldn’t have charges brought up against you, it seems that if you could keep the EMERGENCY lines open for actual and true EMERGENCIES you would be doing us all a service.

Wiki states: A promotional website for 3-1-1 in Akron described the distinction as follows: “Burning building? Call 9-1-1. Burning Question? Call 3-1-1.”

You can call 311 if you want to report graffiti . . . or someone parked blocking your driveway . . . or someone in your neighborhood is lighting off fireworks . . . . or it is 2:30 am on a Monday night and the neighbors are playing the music so loud your windows are rattling . . . there is also that car has been on your street for a few days and every time you see , has “less”(first the tires are gone . . . then the bumpers . . . etc.) . . . basically things that are NOT EMERGENCIES, but are causing you concern or might require municipal services.

The first use of this number as a non-emergency service number was in 1996 in Baltimore, Maryland. Previously it had been used in Hollywood as the area code for phone numbers in such movies as “When a Stranger Calls”, “The Rockford Files”, “Ghostbusters” and more according to Wiki.

If 311 is available in your area, calling it instead of 911 could free up EMERGENCY services for actual EMERGENCIES.  It is possible that if more people were aware of 311 people would not get a busy signal or be put on hold when they call 911 in an EMERGENCY SITUATION.

Do you have 311 in your area?  Have you ever called it?  What type of non-emergency would you use 311 for?

10 Responses to “311 Can Save The Day And Possibly A Life”

  1. Danielle said

    Terre, I had no idea about 311 and I thought I knew a thing or 2. Thank you.


    • I swear in my area there used to be commercials on the radio. Or something. Anyway, I am kinda thinking they don’t have 311 where you are. 😉 But when you are in the States you might find a use for it! I am glad I could share something new and useful. That is one thing I love about posting on a blog it is fun to share things I learn!


      • Danielle said

        So true, I absolutely can’t use it now and here in Shanghai I have no idea how to call any emergency services or police. I just have a 24 hour number to buy bottled water and get my toilet fixed if I need to.


  2. Joan Meyer said

    I’ve certainly used 311! I so wish people would use it instead of 911 when it’s not an emergency…. But I have found that it often takes forever for them to answer….
    And did you know that 211 will give you all sorts of local info for services & info in the area!! Thanks for posting this!


    • Well, I read one thing that said they use 911 operators so if 911 is having a busy time they are unable to answer 311 calls, but I am not sure that is true. I do think that taking “forever” for them to answer 311 calls is better than tying up the 911 lines. I think I have heard of 211 but have never used it and don’t actually think about it. So thanks for the reminder.

      I Googled 211 and got to a website that states: “Call 2-1-1 for help with food, housing, employment, health care, counseling and more.” Thanks, Joan!


  3. niachick said

    WOW!! Thanks for this post!! I am not familiar with 311 either. I don’t know if it’s available in our area, but I’m going to find out as soon as I post this comment!! Thanks, Terre!!!


    • 🙂 If it is available, perhaps help get the word out.

      I think it is nice having a number that people can call but that does not go to emergency responders. I tend to believe there might be things people would like to report or ask about but don’t want to bother 911 because it is not an emergency. If they knew there was a number to call they might. 🙂


  4. Dwight burke said

    I never knew about 311. You are amazing. Your BLOG is always so entertaining and informative. Sometimes it is food,sometimes it is Nia and it is always about you. That is why I love readihg your BLOG! Always something new! Dwight


    • Why, thank you, Dwight! I do work to keep it “educational” even if I feel as if I am just sharing something I learned. The amazing thing is, usually someone else learns something too. I am really excited to be sharing 311 with so many people. I thought it was common knowledge. I am really starting to believe 911 might be less busy (I have heard stories of people in true emergency situations getting busy signals) is some used 311.

      Thanks again for the kind, encouraging, and motivating words!


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