Saturday November 20, 2004

311 Citizen Services

New York City has a relatively new Citizen Services telephone number, 311, started by NYC Mayor MIchael Bloomberg. I think it should go nation-wide.

311 proved itself in a vital way for thousands of NYC residents during the east coast blackout of 2003.

The moment the lights flickered off to begin the great blackout of 2003, New York City's emergency management teams put elegant procedures into action, anticipating New Yorkers' needs in a city suddenly denied power. They prevented looting, located stuck elevators, and prepared to treat victims of heat exhaustion. But for thousands of people that long night, the most pressing concern was something that hadn't occurred to the government: blood sugar levels.

As the blackout stretched from afternoon into early evening, many diabetics grew increasingly apprehensive about the shelf life of their refrigerated insulin. Emergency planners may not have foreseen those worries, but within a matter of hours, Mayor Michael Bloomberg was addressing the vital but arguably obscure topic in one of that night's many press conferences. The insulin issue had trickled up the command chain thanks to a service Bloomberg started: the 311 line.

311 ... may well be the most radical enhancement of urban information management since the invention of the census, and it promises to make urban centers into more livable spaces.

[ Operators are Standing By, Wired Magazine, November 2004 ]

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311 Citizen Services ( in category News & Information , SciTech ) - posted at Sat, 20 Nov, 12:07 Pacific