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211 LA Assisting Hurricane Michael and Florence Victims
October 19, 2018
By Admin

Hurricanes bring devastation to the places and people they impact, and the need for assistance extends far beyond the actual storm - from sandbags and evacuations to rescues, shelter, and food, to recovery, cleanup, FEMA registration, trauma counseling, and more. 211 LA has a long history of assisting with out of state Hurricane response and recovery, most recently with Hurricanes Michael and Florence.

2-1-1 is an easy to remember, federally designated phone number for Information and Referral  and plays a critical role in emergency response and recovery from incidents ranging from local fires and floods to huge regional events like hurricanes. Providing one number for all types of non-emergency assistance during and after disasters eases pressure on 9-1-1, and allows for extra capacity from volunteer 2-1-1 centers across the country to help handle the large number of calls and texts. 

2-1-1s are trained in call handling, crisis and disaster response, assessing individual situations and connecting people to resources. Sometimes the most important thing is to be able to help people stay calm and figure out what they need to do first. 

Hurricane Michael Assistance
Assisting 211 Escambia County and Northwest Florida United Way, 211 LA is handling the overnight calls from Escambia county, receiving about 100 calls per night. The calls get routed from the local 211 call center to 211 LA, where 211 LA staff have access to a database of available resources near Escambia county, and use maps to identify where people are calling from and what resources are closest to them. It’s a tricky thing to do when you’re not familiar with an area, but callers are incredibly appreciative of the support and of having a friendly voice to talk to.

One call 211 LA received was from an elderly woman who called looking for window screens. She was very kind and happy to have someone to talk to, and when asked more about her situation, it was discovered that the hurricane had destroyed her windows, but she didn’t want to leave her house and go to a shelter because she would have to leave her cats behind. She was given information for local recovery resources to help with her windows.

Visit United Way of Northwest Florida for information on donating to support Hurricane Michael recovery

Hurricane Florence Assistance
Amidst the devastating flooding of Hurricane Florence in North Carolina, national media coverage of Hurricane Florence directed North Carolinians to call 2-1-1 for aid. The network of 2-1-1 centers across the country, including 211 LA County, stepped up to N-C 211’s call for assistance. With the extensive flooding leaving many people stranded awaiting evacuation, or unable to return home, and millions of drowned farm animals and pollutants creating serious public health risks, the calls for assistance continued weeks after the storm had passed.

211 LA helped over 800 callers from North Carolina with requests like finding hot meals and clean water, getting debris cleaned out of their home or business, and finding out whether it was safe to return home.

Some of the stories included:
- An elderly woman, who needed help removing a large tree that had fallen on her mobile home while they were inside during the storm.
- A truck driver headed across the country, stranded by the storm and out of gas, looking for updated road closure information and assistance getting gas.
- An 89 year old, mobility impaired woman stranded on her 2nd floor, not knowing the extent of devastation from flooding to her first floor or whether to leave, and grateful for the help from 211 and the good samaritan neighbors who were bringing her food.

211 LA was able to provide verified and updated information from the other side of the country by connecting to North Carolina’s Emergency Management Division and their State Emergency Response Team. 

Community resource advisors stayed aware of the needs for shelter, food, transportation, mosquito and disease control, clean water, pet and livestock recovery, and financial and legal assistance through a large, easily navigable spreadsheet of these various resources that was updated daily by North Carolina’s 211 center and Emergency Operations Center and transferred to 211 LA staff through our Resource Department. 

“We are here for you to help support you as you help callers navigate what I am sure is a scary situation for them.  There are lots of resources available, but callers may need some patience due to flooding and capacity making it difficult for first responders to get to them,” Resource Manager Laura James instructed the 211 LA team early on during the storm.

As of September 25th, FEMA had expanded assistance to 28 counties in North Carolina. Land and business owners who have lost or sustained damages to their homes and property have been eligible to register for benefits, including grants for temporary housing, repairs, loans, and other assistance as they recover.

211 LA is proud to have been able to help during Hurricanes Michael, Florence, Irma, Sandy, Irene, Gustav and Ike.