Tools Like 311 Local Apps Improve Emergency Communications & Response

Utilizing a web-based incident tool has enabled San Francisco to streamline communications between city agencies and individuals in the case of a disaster. Find out how tools like local 311 improve 911 response.

What Happened?
San Francisco’s Department of Emergency Management updated its response protocol to improve communication between service providers and residents to make safety and recovery more easily attained. Apps like this, local 311 and other services improve 911 communications.

The Goal
The statewide Golden Guardian emergency earthquake awareness simulation tested the city’s policies, response and recovery procedures in the event of a disaster. The simulation not only called for immediate emergency responsiveness, but also evaluated the services required up to 48 hours after a 7.8 earthquake hits.

The event places emergency responders, public agencies and other volunteers in real-life scenarios to overcome common disaster challenges such as:

  • Transporting resources such as water and fuel
  • Sheltering displaced residents
  • Distributing food to those in need
  • Maintain consistent communications with all involved parties with quick responses

Communication Tech
To streamline communications between agencies and individuals, the city utilized the WebEOC incident management tool to disseminate messages and ensure protocol was followed. The internet-based crisis information management system allows command centers to keep in touch with first responders and coordinate strategies to increase safety and recovery. The technology is able to create communication channels across the state to fire, emergency medical services, public works and law enforcement officials.

The management tool is able to schedule, track and monitor of responses during crisis situations. The technology breaks down the data by:

  • Emergency activation and incident event reporting
  • Situation reporting
  • Resource management
  • Initial damage estimates

Local 311, Social Media In Emergencies
Harvard University recently analyzed the role local 311 services and social media networks are playing during disasters across the country. Many cities are developing different 311 programs to make it easier for residents to receive information in a non-emergency situation, freeing up 911 lines for more immediate-need calls.

IBM is also working with organizations to make better use of text and data analytics to share information between public agencies and residents during a disaster. The solutions allow residents to access insurance information quickly and submit claims efficiently to accelerate the recovery process and get communities back on track faster. The software also turns social media into a valuable communications channel to speak directly to residents, as well as collect data on what locales are hit hardest. While 311 lines can be used to answer questions, and 911 channels are for emergencies, mass texts and social media posts offer a quick solution for sharing information with a large population in a state of crisis. By relying on advanced analytics, overwhelmed phone lines are no longer the only means of information access to a community in distress.

About the author

Barry Greenfield

Barry Greenfield is the founder of EfficientGov.com.