The following was a speech made by our NC 2-1-1 Call Center Director, Marla Browne, at our annual Live United Celebration.
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Take a moment, click on the image above and listen to this caller's message. I don’t know the circumstances around this woman’s situation. I don’t know what was said or done for this woman to feel that her burden, from whatever crisis she was going through, was made to feel lighter.
I do know that the 12 people who answer the 2-1-1 line in our community 365 days per year have thousands and thousands of conversations like this one. It’s not just referrals we offer. These professionals are trained to listen, assess and provide vital information while treating callers with the dignity and respect every human deserves.
Last year we handled over 30,000 calls in WNC for basic needs like food and shelter as well as complex needs like services available for caregivers, resources for people experiencing addictions, people looking for medical assistance and immigration support services. To best serve our callers, specialists are embedded in our community by being members of the Latino Steering Committee, Community Health Improvement Plan, Homeless Initiative Advisory Council, Blue Ridge Veterans Community Partnership and more. We also receive training to best assist special populations like how to identify victims of human trafficking or helpful terms to use when speaking with the men and women who have served our country through the military.
Serving During Emergencies
An important part of our training includes FEMA’s basic level of understanding of an Incident Command System. This is training we’ve put in practice many times over the last several years. We played a role to support our WNC neighbors during the wildfires, floods and winter weather experienced over the years.
As part of the NC 2-1-1 statewide system, we also responded to two record-breaking hurricanes in two years. During the height of Hurricanes Matthew and Florence, we handled over three times our normal call volume. What we usually answer in a month became our weekly call volume. When asked to give successes from our response specialists shared their examples:
- I helped people remain calm
- I arranged an emergency rescue for a woman and her son with autism
- I provided callers with information about emergency unemployment benefits
- I arranged a rescue for a group of older people living in a long term motel
- I gave resources to Spanish speakers looking for shelter and food and gave them a piece of hope that there is help out there
- I helped a person living with a disability to navigate a way to meet up with his family. He was alone and his disability was making him very anxious
- I found my most successful moments in the calls where the caller had already contacted several different agencies and they inform me that they received the best customer experience and information from 2-1-1
NC 2-1-1 has now been named the Governor’s line to be used during times of disaster. We are truly honored by this distinction and proud to serve our community in this capacity.
On February 11, which is National 2-1-1 Day, NC 2-1-1 was recognized at the United Way of North Carolina Annual Meeting for our part in the response to Hurricane Florence. As part of that recognition, Governor Cooper shared these kind words.