FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: CONTACT:
September 5, 2008 Mary Sanders, (626) 350-1841
Community Liaison, Mary@211la.org
California 2-1-1s aid Hurricane Gustav evacuees
2-1-1 service providers in Los Angeles, San Diego and San Francisco are helping thousands of people affected by Hurricane Gustav, by connecting them with emergency food, shelter and other critical resources and information needed in the recovery process. California 2-1-1s is pitching in to help 2-1-1s in Louisiana who are receiving more calls for help than those centers can handle on their own. 4,265 calls from Louisiana evacuees in need of food, shelter, information on evacuation and return routes, social services, and family reunification status, have already been fielded by 2-1-1 specialists in California.
2-1-1, the 3 digit dialing code used nationally for information and referral to community and social services, has played an increasingly important role in disaster response and recovery as demonstrated most recently during the October 2007 wildfires in Southern California and also during Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and providing service in multiple languages, 2-1-1 is currently accessible to 75% of the US population and 84% of Californians in 19 counties. During disaster events, 2-1-1 service providers kick into high gear gathering and tracking critical resource information from emergency responders, law enforcement and other verifiable sources to provide the public with information and referrals that help keep non-emergency calls from clogging 9-1-1 lines.
2-1-1s in California were contacted soon after the magnitude of impact caused by Hurricane Gustav became clear and Louisiana 2-1-1s began to receive call surges beyond their local capacity to handle. Using the latest phone technology 211 LA County is able to receive all the overflow calls from Louisiana and route and distribute these calls among the 2-1-1s in Los Angeles, San Diego and San Francisco. Currently, 211 San Diego is fielding 50% of the overflow calls from Louisiana with 211 LA County and 2-1-1 San Francisco handling the other 50% between them. 211 LA County is additionally providing support in maintaining the database of emergency resources that is being used to provide callers with information and referrals in both the Louisiana and California 2-1-1 centers.
211 LA County is able to create a “virtual network” connecting the Louisiana 2-1-1 centers with the California centers, extending the reach of what any single center can accomplish on their own. Helping people in times of greatest need is what 2-1-1s do every day but during disaster, it is critical for 2-1-1s to have the ability to quickly ramp up their capacity to serve impacted populations and support emergency responders. “Because 2-1-1 centers adhere to standardized protocols based on national standards that include emergency response preparedness and because we are working closely with 2-1-1s in Louisiana, we are able to assist Gustav evacuees regardless of where they are calling from, demonstrating the effectiveness of a 2-1-1 system that is connected” said Maribel Marin, Executive Director of 211 LA County and co-chair of the 211 California.
Helping people recover from disaster requires rapid mobilization of resources and experienced staff that knows how to provide assistance for a broad range of needs and circumstances; experience that is fresh for the staff of 2-1-1 San Diego coming off the October 2007 wildfire storm. “2-1-1 San Diego staff went into immediate disaster protocol, recruiting volunteers, readying work stations and securing resource information to enable us to start handling Gustav calls within 48 hours of receiving the call for assistance; we are pleased that our recent response experience and current state of preparedness has enabled us to aid other areas impacted by disaster,” says John Ohanian, Chief Executive Officer of 2-1-1 San Diego. 2-1-1 San Francisco Executive Director, Ed Schoenberger stated “I am gratified by the scores of UWBA employees who joined their 2-1-1 colleagues and enabled us to nearly triple the number of lines available. If the need continues there are many Bay Area community volunteers who are ready to come in and help answer the phones.”
2-1-1s throughout California are working to enable the entire state to have access to service by 2010 and to ensure that the centers are connected in a network that allows for automatic call routing and call distribution so that surges resulting from emergency/disaster events can be accommodated. Currently, such connectivity is accomplished only on a case by case basis through the intervention of the major phone companies and only for centers that have adequate telecommunications equipment.
211 LA County has provided services to Los Angeles residents for over 25 years. Los Angeles County residents can call the toll free 2-1-1 number that is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Callers can get information regarding, health care, senior services, emergency food & shelter, legal assistance and much more. 211 is the disaster hotline for Los Angeles County that provides up to date information about emergency and disaster resources. 2-1-1is confidential and services are provided in more than 140 languages. 2-1-1 LA County is funded by the County of Los Angeles, United Way of Greater Los Angeles and First 5 LA.
211 Community Liaison
(626) 350-1841 X2187