Most people are aware of the telephone number 911 and the call centers that receive the emergency calls, but there is another special number, and that is 311.
The 311 telephone number is used in many cities and towns in the USA and Canada to provide callers with access to non-emergency municipal services at a local level.
Calls to a 311 Call Center might include:
- Acceptable items for recycling
- Dead animal removal
- Debris in roadway
- Dog bites
- Illegal burning
- Location and hours of libraries
- Motor vehicle accidents and stolen vehicles
- Missed garbage collection
- Non-working street lamps, parking meters, traffic lights
- Noise complaints
- Parking Law Enforcement
- Potholes and sinkholes
- Queries about well water
- Site plan applications
- Road construction projects
311 was first used in an official capacity in Baltimore, Maryland in 1996. However, this was not the first time the number had been seen in the USA. Bell System advertisements sometimes used 311 as a fictitious area code in advertisements for telephones. It was also used fictitiously in the movies When a Stranger Calls and Ghostbusters and in the opening of the TV series The Rockford Files.
311 information systems are increasingly used to support emergency operations; during hurricanes for example. Callers dial a 311 call center (where it is available)to get up-to-date information on road and building closures, evacuation routes, and shelter locations.
Bearing in mind non-emergency calls make up between 50 and 90 percent of 911 calls, 311 customer service centers have freed up call-swamped 911 centers, sharpened first response services and resulted in many other benefits.