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. But 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.
t the request of the Oregon Office of Emergency Management, 211 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 said.
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 also made sure the caller knew that 211info can connect her to a variety of social services when she needs them, such as food, healthcare resources, rental assistance, financial support and childcare.
Residents should 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.