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This Month's Feature Article 

Using 311

Expanding Customer Service and Enhancing Emergency Services

written by Jeff Winbourne

Since the late 1990s, over 300 cities and counties in the United States and Canada use 311 for non-emergency calls such as city/county services and information. Starting with Baltimore, Chicago, Dallas, and Washington DC, 311 began as police non-emergency phone number. The idea was, and still is, to divert calls from 911, leaving 911 open for true emergencies. In 2005, Calgary, Alberta, became the first 311 operation in Canada.

One Stop Shopping for City Services. Over time, 311 became more than just a phone line. It represents the process for handling service requests and providing information. By the early 2000s, New York, San Francisco, Miami-Dade County, Florida, and others evolved 311 to provide a portal for citizen access for all services. These cities have evolved from telephone only access to include website services, text, chat, and social media sites

311 and 911. More and more jurisdictions in the US, such as Tucson, Arizona, are planning and implementing 311 services. Along with other reasons behind this initiative, governments are seeking ways to address the recurring problem of attracting and maintaining 911 staff.

The industry experience is that 311 can help by reducing the ever-increasing 911 call volume. Our firm’s experience in implementing 311 solutions in over 15 jurisdictions, is that up to 50% of the 911 call volume can be diverted to 311.

City-Focused 311 Apps. In addition to off-loading calls from 911, governments are looking for new methods to provide an easy way for residents to access information and request services. Some jurisdictions have developed their own 311 apps, such as in Miami-Dade County. Likewise, New York, Columbus, Ohio, Los Angeles, and San Antonio, have developed their own 311 app.

Using 311 Data to Manage a City. The data generated by 311 systems is used to plan budgets, prepare new programs and approve new hires. Why? Because the 311 data shows the city services requests, complaints and where more services are requested. For example, NYPD uses 311 data to assist with planning resources. Using "CityStat" under Mayor Martin O'Malley, Baltimore was the first major city to use data to manage city budget allocations, investments, and direct service provision across city agencies.

311 Applications. Today, 311 operations use a variety of tools to manage their customer facing services as well as their voluminous data, including Customer Resource Management of CRM applications and the Open311. These applications operate in much the same way, by either putting all the agencies on the same application or interfacing from the 311 CRM to the agency application.

Winbourne’s 311 Experience. For 20 years we have supported cities and counties to plan, implement, and upgrade their 311 systems. Our firm can assist with developing your initial 311 roadmap, budget estimates, and can assist with the procurement and implementation of applications and transitioning calls from 911 to 311. We have also assisted our clients in the development of policies and procedures and conducted staff training.

This article was written by Jeff Winbourne who is currently leading business development and technical design for integrated public safety systems internationally.

Visit the Winbourne webpage for more information on our services.   

Articles of Interest

911 dispatcher hopefuls tested during Santa Fe call center rapid-hire event 

Job applicant Jonathan Welborn reacts after hearing a recording of a murder-suicide 911 call Thursday during a rapid-hire event for the Santa Fe Regional Emergency Communications Center. The exercise was aimed at recalling as many details as possible and showing the types of calls dispatchers receive. The communications center is trying to fill a 64 percent vacancy rate.

Jim Weber/The New Mexican

By Nathan Lederman [email protected] 

Jul 21, 2022, Updated Jul 26, 2022

Not long after the start of a recruiting event Thursday for the local emergency dispatch center, the three participants listened to harrowing audio from a decade-old 911 call.

A woman provides an address and then screams, “No, no! Please, no.”

A man takes the phone and tells the 911 operator, “I just shot everybody.”

The prospective dispatchers listened intently as the 2012 incident in Longmont, Colo. — which would become a murder-suicide — played out in the recording. Each tried to retain as many details as possible about the early morning call, in which a disgruntled ex-boyfriend just released from jail had broken into the home of his former girlfriend’s sister and fatally shot both women and the sister’s husband.

He then shot himself while on the phone with the dispatcher.

Training coordinator Marshall Dean asked the job candidates what address the woman had given in the final moments of her life.

None got it exactly right.

The call highlighted the realities of work at Santa Fe Regional Emergency Communications Center — realities Dean said he wanted to impress upon the applicants.

“When somebody is having the worst day of their life — when you dial [911] — where is it going? It’s going to the RECC,” he said.

The Regional Emergency Communications Center and the Santa Fe County Human Resources Department held their first in a series of rapid-hire events Thursday morning in downtown Santa Fe in an effort to fill about 30 jobs and recruit trainees. As of last week, the center had a 64.6 percent vacancy rate, down from 67 percent last month.

Read the complete article here:  911 dispatcher hopefuls tested during Santa Fe call center rapid-hire event | Local News |

AI can be a first line of defense in fielding 988 calls

As the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline is being rolled out, most localities are still unprepared and understaffed

By Scott Leatherman,

Chief Marketing Officer, Veritone

JULY 28, 2022

On July 16, the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline replaced the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, an important step toward transforming crisis care. The new hotline connects to a national network of more than 200 crisis centers that can help people overcome a suicidal crisis or mental health-related distress.

A call to a mental health hotline manned by a trained operator can obviously be a lifesaver, but the volume of calls may be overwhelming. Each year in Austin, Texas, for example, the emergency call center diverts more than 80% of its calls to mental health clinicians.

We are facing a 988 staffing crisis just as the service is launching. Reporting has revealed that hundreds of positions remain unfilled. Tradeoffs, the health policy podcast, reported the hotline could get up to 12 million calls in its first year, as 50 million Americans with a mental illness seek help.

As 988 is being rolled out, most localities are still unprepared and understaffed. In fact, President Joe Biden called for $700 million to staff 988 and strengthen the mental crisis system across the country.

Read the complete article hereAI can be a first line of defense in fielding 988 calls - GCN

Officers’ smart cards foster transparency, community trust

Police in Alpharetta, Georgia, are testing smart cards that citizens can scan with their mobile devices to access officer-specific contact and case information

By Shourjya Mookerjee

JUNE 30, 2022

With a new twist on the old-fashioned business card, the Department of Public Safety in Alpharetta, Georgia, is making it easier for the community to get to know their local law enforcement officers.

The city’s police department is the first agency in the country to pilot the use of smart cards that citizens can scan with their mobile devices to access officer-specific contact and case information. The technology was developed by Montana-based Police Smart Card, according to a recent release.

During an interaction with the police, residents use their smartphone’s camera to scan either a QR code on the officer’s smart business card or, since the cards are enabled with near-field communication, tap it with their device. 

This will take users to a web page where they will see the officer’s name and badge number and where they can download a vCard with the officer’s contact information. Crime victims can also enter a case number, which allows them to share information with officers assigned to their case.

Read the complete article here:

Officers’ smart cards foster transparency, community trust - GCN

NTIA Official Details Results from NG 9-1-1 Grant Funding Program

By Danny Ramey, Editor

Tuesday, August 16, 2022 

A National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) official detailed the results of a next-generation 9-1-1 (NG 9-1-1) grant program during the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials (APCO) International conference August 8 – 10.

The grants were first awarded in 2019, and overall, the NTIA awarded a total of $109 million to 36 different organizations. Organizations were able to use the grant funds to purchase NG 9-1-1 capable equipment, geographic information system (GIS) activities to improve and enhance location accuracy, emergency services IP network (ESInet) migration, training focused on NG 9-1-1 and cybersecurity assessments, said NTIA Program Manager Yuki Miyamoto. The grants were not intended to help organizations pay for continued NG 9-1-1 operational costs.

“It was really about the migration to NG 9-1-1 and not providing operational funds,” Miyamoto said.

Read the complete article here:  NTIA Official Details Results from NG 9-1-1 Grant Funding Program (

Increase in emergency response time caused by insufficient staffing, traffic congestion

Written by Andy Castillo

2nd August 2022

The pandemic has detrimentally impacted cities and counties in a lot of different ways, including an increase in emergency response time in some cities—a symptom of challenges like congested streets and staffing shortages.

In New Orleans, for example, a report froAH Analytics commissioned by the New Orleans City Council found it takes an average of 2½ hours for police to respond to a 911 call. 

“The average response time has tripled between 2019 and 2022 for non-emergency calls for service and it has doubled for emergency calls for service over that span,” reads an information presentation of the research submitted to the City Council July 28. For comparison, Little Rock, Ark. averages a 20-minute response time; Cincinnati, Ohio’s is 22 minutes; New York City’s is 30 minutes, and San Francisco’s is 76 minutes, or about an hour and a half.

Perhaps explaining why emergency response times have increased so dramatically, the department has struggled with retention over the same time period—the department’s current staffing of 974 officers and 20 recruits represents a nearly 10 percent decline since the end of 2021.

And with longer response times, residents aren’t receiving the help they need. The share of “gone on arrival” calls has jumped from 19 percent in 2019 to 32 percent this year.

Read the complete article here:  Increase in emergency response time caused by insufficient staffing, traffic congestion - American City and County

International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC)

Chief Donna Black, Duck (NC) Fire Department, Installed as IAFC President

August 26, 2022

SAN ANTONIO, TX – The International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC) installed its slate of officers for 2022-23 during its final General Session at Fire Rescue International (FRI) 2022.

US Fire Administrator Dr. Lori Moore-Merrell delivered the oath of office to incoming IAFC President Chief Donna Black, Duck (NC) Fire Department NC; 1st Vice President Chief John Butler, Fairfax County (VA) Fire and Rescue; 2nd Vice President Chief Josh Waldo, Bozeman (MT) Fire Department, and Treasurer Chief Steven Locke, South Burlington (VT) Fire Department.

Speaking to the FRI attendees, Chief Black said, “As your IAFC President, I am going to focus my attention on communicating with you, representing you and working with you to ensure that we remain the leading agency of fire and emergency leaders.”

Addressing the newly installed officers, Dr. Moore-Merrell said, “You are challenged to lead the association to a new and higher level of skill and ability. Your leadership, foresight, and loyalty of purpose will determine the success and progress of this organization.”

Chief Black will serve as Chair of the IAFC Board of Directors as the organization enters its 150th year of leadership, education and service to the international fire and EMS community. 


To learn more, visitInternational Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC)

Industry Events

October 10-14, 2022

Orlando, FL

For more than 30 years, EMS World Expo has been the leading education event for emergency medical healthcare professionals. This is where the leading medical experts from across the world come together to share their innovative research, demonstrate cutting-edge procedures, and drive the field of paramedicine and the delivery of emergency medical services forward.


To learn more, visit:  Home | EMS World Expo

October 15-18, 2022

Dallas, TX

The International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) Annual Conference and Exposition is the largest and most impactful law enforcement event of the year.

To learn more, visit:  IACP Conference 2022 – THE IACP – Shaping the future of the policing profession (

October 18 - 20, 2022

Irving Convention Center

Irving, TX

As technology advances, new practical applications are imagined to keep communities safer. Augmented reality that can scan a collapsed building or landslide to see cellphone pings of missing persons. Artificial intelligence that can predict disasters. These are just some technologies currently being developed, and Technology Summit International aims to bring the tech of the future to today’s fire and emergency service professionals — helping them reduce risks to their communities and improve their ability to respond to emergencies.

To learn more, visit: Technology Summit International (

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