Between Harvey, Irma, and Maria, this year’s hurricane season has again demonstrated the havoc that extreme weather can wreak on a city. Now more than ever, cities large and small are being confronted with the herculean operational effort required to weather a major storm and then begin the recovery process. A surprising benefit to local governments has been the use of their 311 systems – traditionally used for non-emergency citizen services via phone, web, and mobile apps – to support disaster preparation, response, and recovery efforts.
The success of a city’s response to a natural disaster depends on three key capabilities:
- Clear communication with citizens
- Efficient coordination and deployment of resources across all arms of the government
- Real time analysis of intelligence being received across multiple channels
If this sounds a lot like what a 311 system does, that’s because it is. On a day-to-day basis, 311 acts as a nerve center for a city, taking in information across all major functions of a city, coordinating the city’s responses across multiple agencies, and often analyzing emerging trends to maintain real time situational awareness. 311 systems also establish a technology platform for cross-city coordination that has become familiar to city officials and frontline staff alike – ideal for use in an emergency.
As such, 311 systems can serve as a release valve for the 911 system, while also providing citizens with additional channels for information, leaders with increased situational awareness, and agencies with a familiar mechanism for deploying their teams to support residents.
The 311 advantage in crises isn’t just theoretical. Here are just a few of the real-life stories of how 311 can be effectively deployed during a crisis situation:
- Houston used 311 to monitor and respond to flooding during Hurricane Harvey.
- Boston used its 311 system to track and respond to downed electrical wires and trees in Hurricane Sandy.
- New York fielded 80,000 calls related to hurricane Sandy.
- Before implementing a 311 system, Miami-Dade found its 911 call centers overwhelmed during hurricanes Dennis and Katrina. In the two hurricanes following 311 implementation – Rita and Wilma – the non-emergency line became a primary information channel for the city.
- Baltimore has used 311 to respond to terrorist events.
- 311 played a significant role in Chicago’s response to the West Nile virus.
- Minneapolis used 311 to respond to a major bridge collapse in 2012.
It’s not surprising that the cities that are most responsive on a regular day are most prepared to be responsive during a crisis. The ingredients that are vital in a crisis – communication, coordination, and data-driven decision making – are hallmarks of good government generally, and increasingly they are being achieved in cities through 311.
Incapsulate is a leading provider of Salesforce-based 311 solutions, with solutions in cities across North America. To learn more about how Incapsulate can help with your 311 needs, please contact:
Dilshad Albert | firstname.lastname@example.org
Steve Carter | email@example.com