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New Multimedia Toolkit Helps Local Governments Integrate 3-1-1 Disaster Response and Recovery Systems

Date: 2011-01-31
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ICMA, the International City/County Management Association, and the 311 Synergy Group have announced release of a new multi-media DVD toolkit, “Integrating 311 into Disaster Response & Recovery.” The kit is designed to assist local governments in better using their 311 or CRM (constituent relationship management) systems to share information with the public in the event of an emergency.

First established in the mid-1990s, 311 nonemergency services enable citizens to easily connect with or request service or information from their local government. During a crisis, when residents want information as quickly as possible, 311 systems can also help deliver that information, lessening the burden on 911 systems. 

The new toolkit features articles, interviews, webinars, and other tools and resources that communities can deploy to make the best use of their 311 systems before, during, and after an emergency or disaster.  More than 30 agency and local government representatives from around the country contributed material to the project, the first of its kind in the field.

Eva Liggins, president of the 311 Synergy Group and assistant director of Dallas 3-1-1, observed that “As 3-1-1 and CRM systems have evolved over time, we find that they are contributing to improved local government service in ways never envisioned when the Federal Communications Commission first established the number. This new toolkit demonstrates one of the ways 311 systems are contributing a critical need in communities. In an era of greatly reduced budgets, 3-1-1 and CRM systems provide real value.”

The new toolkit includes interviews with 3-1-1 call agents from Minneapolis, Minnesota, where, during the evening of August 1, 2007, the Interstate 35W bridge crossing the Mississippi River in the heart of the city collapsed during the evening rush hour, killing 13 people and injuring nearly 100 more. The city’s 9-1-1 system was immediately overloaded with phone calls from people wanting emergency information on the collapse. While Minneapolis 3-1-1 previously had not been heavily included in the city’s disaster preparedness plan, the system quickly emerged as the non-emergency number that people could call or email to offer help, check on a loved one, get street closure information, check on personal property, track eyewitness reports, or learn how they could see the collapsed bridge.

As calls started to come in from all over the country and the world, center staff created a series of protocols for responding to questions and requests for information on the disaster. The group quickly created responses to questions about what to do if a car was stuck on the bridge; how to track down a missing person; and where to check whether someone had gone to the hospital. Normally the call center was not open on weekends, but, as Lisa Good, Minneapolis 311 shift supervisor, said, “We worked the whole weekend…It was great because we were open, and we were another place that people could call.”

Technical advice and support for the “Integrating 3-1-1 into Disaster Response & Recovery” project toolkit were provided by the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Community Oriented Policing ( Financial support was provided by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.

Materials from the toolkit can be accessed for free at, or you can order a copy in DVD format at the ICMA Bookstore.

About ICMA: The mission of ICMA, the International City/County Management Association, is to create excellence in local governance by developing and advancing the professional management of local government organizations. ICMA provides member support; publications, data, and information; peer and results-oriented assistance; and training and professional development to thousands of city, town, and county experts and other individuals and organizations throughout the world.

About 311 Synergy Group: The 311 Synergy Group provides a professional, unbiased environment for in-depth and on-going discussion of current issues and common interests among current and prospective 311 customer contact managers throughout North America. The group’s objectives are to: educate membership on current issues related to 311; provide networking access to the knowledge base of other 311 members; create year-round networking opportunities through web casts, blogs/listservs, newsletters, face-to-face meetings and other discussion forums; and create professional development opportunities that include networking with other 311 participants.

- Corporate News/ (via ICMA/311 Synergy Group, 1/28/11)



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