211info directs residents to evacuation routes and centers, connects callers to health and social services
PORTLAND, Ore., September 13, 2020 – With dozens of wildfires burning across Oregon, 911 call centers are noticing a concerning trend: a significant uptick in non-emergency calls related to wildfire evacuation.
911 centers taking calls from areas hit hardest by the wildfires are spending a significant amount of time looking up evacuation routes or urging residents to follow evacuation orders – when there’s a better number to call to get that information.
Oregon residents who have questions about when or how to evacuate should contact 211info – a free, confidential referral and information service that connects residents to local health and human services. At the request of the Oregon Office of Emergency Management, 211info recently set up a special wildfire line just for this purpose. Within 48 hours, the team had fielded hundreds of calls pertaining to the wildfires.
Dan Herman, 211info’s Chief Executive Officer, noted that, in taking these calls, 211info is able to take the burden off of 911 and first responders, freeing them up to work on the most critical cases. “Callers are often in shock and may be hesitant to leave or unsure how to get their immediate needs met. Our team is here to help connect them to those resources,” he explained.
Anneleah Jaxen, Statewide Emergency Manager for 211info, took a call from a 19-year-old Sandy resident who was stranded at the side of the road with her kitten after receiving a level 3 evacuation order. “She could see fire and smoke and was clearly in shock and didn’t know what to do.” Jaxen, who has three daughters around the same age, confirmed the caller’s location and stayed on the phone with her to make sure she had the means to get to the nearest shelter.
She also made sure the caller knew that 211info can connect her to a variety of social services when she needs them, such as food, health care resources, rental assistance, financial support and childcare.
When should residents call 911? When there’s an immediate threat to life or property. For other non-life-threatening issues that require police involvement, residents are asked to call the non-emergency number for their region. And if they need social service information and referrals, they should call 211.
Oregonians in the Portland Metro are encouraged to sign up for Public Alerts (https://www.publicalerts.org/) for their area to get notifications and updates. Residents outside the Portland metro area should call 211 to find out how to sign up for alerts in their region.
Residents can also follow the official Twitter and Facebook accounts for the Oregon Office of Emergency Management for wildfire updates.
About 211info: 211info is a nonprofit organization funded by state and municipal contracts, foundations, United Ways, donations and community partners in Oregon and Southwest Washington. As Oregon Health Authority’s designated COVID-19 hotline for the state, 211info also serves as a central resource for residents looking for information about the novel coronavirus, including symptoms to look for, where to receive care and how to get tested. Learn more at 211info.org.