2-1-1 FAQ & History

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What is 2-1-1?

2-1-1 is an easy to remember, three-digit telephone number that connects people with important community services to meet everyday needs and the immediate needs of people in crisis. For example, 2-1-1 can offer access to

  1. affordable high quality child care/after-school care;
  2. counseling and support groups;
  3. health services;
  4. food, clothing and housing and
  5. services for seniors and the disabled.

How does 2-1-1 work?

Callers simply dial 2-1-1 for information on vital local services. 2-1-1 is free, confidential, available 24 hours a day -- everyday, multilingual and staffed by agents ready to help you find the connection you need.

How is United Way involved with 2-1-1?

United Ways have a long-standing commitment to funding information and referral (I&R) services in their communities. As a result of this commitment, in 1999, United Way of North Carolina began exploring the possibilities of a 2-1-1 system. A 2-1-1 task force submitted an application to the North Carolina Public Utilities Commission for designation of the three-digit number to be used for health and human service information, referral, and volunteer opportunities. The Commission designated United Way of North Carolina as the “holder” of the 2-1-1 number on November 18, 1999. In 2000, United Way of America was designated as the national holder of the 2-1-1 number. United Ways in North Carolina host the 2-1-1 service and provide the information on local resources used to connect callers and meet their needs.

United Way of North Carolina partners with the Empatha to provide 2-1-1 services to many communities in our state. Empatha operates five state-of-the-art call centers that address sensitive health topics. Call center staff provide compassionate, one-to-one services to thousands of individuals every month. As a major provider of health-related telephone hotline services since 1979, Empatha has significant information technology capabilities in maximizing call capacity and call center management.

Is my community covered by 2-1-1 services?

View a map of 2-1-1 coverage in North Carolina

How can I reach 2-1-1 from my cell phone?

Callers should be able to dial 2-1-1 from any home, office or cell phone. If you do experience difficulties you can always reach the service through the toll-free number at 1-888-892-1162.

How can I reach 2-1-1 from work?

If you call from work and cannot reach 2-1-1, try using the toll-free number (1-888-892-1162). Then ask the person in charge of your phone system to program the 2-1-1 number into your PBX system. Contact United Way of North Carolina at 919-834-5200 for further assistance in programming your system.

What is an I&R?

There are thousands of I&R service agencies operated by non-profit and government organizations throughout the United States. These I&R services answer millions of calls annually. I&R services are responsible for connecting callers with opportunities to get and give help through more than 1.6 million health and human service providers, government agencies, and community-based service organizations in the United States.

I&R agencies maintain comprehensive databases of resources including federal, state, and local government agencies, private non-profit agencies, faith and community based organizations, schools, libraries and neighborhood and civic organizations. The comprehensive I&R agency often maintains this data for the specialized centers in the community and makes it available on the Internet, in other electronic forms, and through paper directories and handbooks.

I&R specialists are skilled professionals. They assess callers' needs and help the caller determine their options and the best course of action. Additionally, I&R specialists are trained to determine whether a caller may be eligible for other programs, to intervene in crisis situations, and to advocate on behalf of the caller, as needed.

What is the difference between 911, 311, 411, etc.?

Among abbreviated dialing arrangements, "N11" codes are three-digit codes of which the first digit can be any digit other than 1 or 0, and the last two digits are both one. There are only eight possible N11 codes, making N11 codes among the scarcest of numbering resources. Following are the existing N11 code assignments:

  • 2-1-1: Assigned for community information and referral services
  • 3-1-1: Assigned nationwide for non-emergency police and other government services
  • 4-1-1: Unassigned, but used virtually nationwide by carriers for directory assistance
  • 5-1-1: Assigned for traffic and transportation information
  • 6-1-1: Unassigned, but used broadly by carriers for repair service
  • 7-1-1: Assigned nationwide for access to Telecom Relay Services
  • 8-1-1: Unassigned, but used by local exchanged carriers for business office use
  • 9-1-1: Unassigned, but used nationwide for emergency services

N11 codes "011" and "111" are unavailable because "0" and "1" are used for switching and routing purposes



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