CPUC Action Would Ensure 100% 2-1-1 Coverage For All California Residents In Times of Disasters and Emergencies
2-1-1 Available to Provide Timely, Critical Non-Life-threatening Information in Times of Disaster. Will Help Reserve 911 for Life-saving Emergency Calls.
September 13, 2011
San Francisco, California
The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) last week voted unanimously to approve a petition from 2-1-1 California to ensure 2-1-1 will be available to connect all Californians to vital information and referral services in times of disaster. Currently, 2-1-1 is available 24/7, 365 days a year in 30 counties, accessible to 91% of all Californians. But many rural communities do not have access to 2-1-1. The action will enable 100% availability of 2-1-1 to California residents in the event of a disaster or emergency.
The CPUC also appointed 2-1-1 California as the “Lead Entity” to coordinate 2-1-1 service statewide. 2-1-1 services are provided by local and regional 2-1-1 service providers, and 2-1-1 California is a partnership developed to coordinate their work statewide on an informal basis. Assigning 2-1-1 California as the lead entity will help ensure a more formal coordinated telecommunications, IT, software and organizational infrastructure to better connect and coordinate regional 2-1-1’s statewide and to expand 2-1-1’s during emergencies and non-emergencies alike.
“The CPUC action is truly historic because it will significantly expand the reach and availability of 2-1-1 to more Californians, both in times of emergency and eventually, as several Commissioners noted, for everyday assistance,” said Peter Manzo, President of United Ways California and Co-Chair of 2-1-1 California. “When a person calls 2-1-1, their call is answered by a live specialist who can take calls in 150 languages and provide immediate assessment of need and referrals to appropriate assistance. Without 2-1-1, callers can make an average of eight phone calls to different numbers before finding the services they need. 2-1-1 cuts through the red tape and helps Californians quickly find the help they need.”
2-1-1 is a free resource to connect people to the services and help they most need, such as:
- Non-emergency disaster assistance such as shelter, food, and emergency information.
- Job assistance and employment resources
- What to do if the utilities are turned off
- Where to get free or low-cost health care services
- How to get rent or mortgage assistance
- Food and shelter for underserved families
- Child care referral
- State and local government health and social services referrals
California 2-1-1 call centers fielded over 1.4 million calls in 2010. Residents, emergency service providers, government entities, non-profit agencies and businesses have all come to understand how 2-1-1 connects people with the services they need.
During emergencies, 2-1-1 can prove to be a particularly critical resource, redirecting non-emergency calls away from 9-1-1 so first responders can focus on pressing emergency needs.
2-1-1 has also been activated during other emergencies in recent years including:
- San Diego Wildfires of 2007
- Hurricanes Gustav and Ike (California 2-1-1s handled overflow calls)
- H1N1 influenza outbreak of 2009
- Southern California fires of 2008 thru present
- Tsunami warnings of 2010
“Emergency Management Agencies (EMAs) work with 2-1-1s in times of emergencies where the service exists. By making sure residents can access accurate info by calling 2-1-1, EMAs are freed up to do their work and 9-1-1 is available to handle the true life-threatening emergencies. This recent power outage was just one example of how our 2-1-1 network can truly help Californians”, said Nancy Findeisen, President & CEO of Community Services Planning Council and 2-1-1 Sacramento and Co-Chair of 2-1-1 California.
2-1-1 California is a partnership of United Ways of California and CAIRS (California Alliance of Information and Referral Services). 2-1-1 California has been working to help the remaining counties provide 2-1-1 so that the service is available everywhere and always.