211 Disaster Response
NJ 211 is perfectly positioned to respond immediately during times of crisis. It is structured to manage the expected high volume of crisis-related calls and the 211 staff is trained to direct callers to services most appropriate for their needs. We've proven this time and again.
NJ 211 is written into the state's official emergency plan. There's more than one reason for that.
- Our infrastructure includes a cloud-based telephony system and this, along with our network, has built-in redundancy. This gives us a back-up system should the first one fail.
- Our remote access capability is strong which means that our staff can work from home during severe storms (or even a pandemic!)
- We use a communication system that is fully equipped to scale up or down depending upon volume and we can easily program calls to go to another line if needed.
- In addition to that, we've implemented a reverse text messaging system, enabling us to communicate emergency messages out to the public when needed.
- Our dynamic website enables us to communicate real-time disaster resources.
- Our sophisticated data collection system and customized reporting capabilities position us to quickly convey growing trends and current needs.
Emergency Preparedness, Response, and Recovery
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, NJ 211 expanded its staff and operational tools to handle twice the normal call volume. We provided critical and timely information that connected government officials, agencies providing care, and callers in need. NJ 211 maintained a real-time web-based resource and recovery section that changed hour-by-hour to assist the public in finding available resources. Associated web pages were updated multiple times daily in an effort to reflect the ever-changing response to the ongoing pandemic and the recovery efforts that followed. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, NJ 211 worked closely with the State of New Jersey to inform them of the needs expressed by callers. Through our connections to government officials and agencies providing care, we were able to provide callers with relevant information as they struggled through the initial state-wide, stay-at-home order. New Jerseyans are still recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic and NJ 211 is still providing relevant information as it becomes available.
Extreme Weather Threatens those Without Shelter
When temperatures drop below freezing or soar to dangerously high levels, those who have a home or rental unit can usually find relief from the elements. For people experiencing homelessness, conditions like these can be life-threatening. NJ 211 works closely with state and county Offices of Emergency Management to ensure that New Jerseyans know where they can go for help. On any given day when conditions are extreme and emergency protocols are activated, we publish shelter information that has been opened to address this need.
As the State's Homeless Hotline, we work in partnership with county agencies throughout the year (regardless of the temperature) so that those experiencing homelessness have a safe place to stay at night. We assess each caller to determine the appropriate resources to address their immediate need, as well as the underlying issues related to homelessness.
Robust 211 National Network Serves as Back-Up
Following the devastation that resulted from seven hurricanes in 2005, Palm Beach County, Florida approached NJ 211 to back-up their 211 system during hurricane season (June - November). It was agreed that in an emergency, NJ 211 would handle call volume from Palm Beach and the four surrounding communities. Following Hurricane Wilma 4,000 calls were handled. In 2006, 211 handled call volume for 14 hours during Hurricane Ernesto. Our coverage enabled Florida's call center staff to concentrate on preparing themselves and their families for the storm.
This kind of assistance is offered behind the scenes whenever severe weather is forecast anywhere in the country. The growing network of 211 call centers with staff who have been trained to respond in times of emergency help to keep citizens and VOAD (Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster) members in every part of the United States better equipped to respond and recover.