211 and Emergency Responders: Supporting Victims of Every Day Emergencies

211 and Emergency Responders: Supporting Victims of Every Day Emergencies


March 25, 2013 - In our communities every day people face crises in their lives. A person may be the victim of a fire or flood, a crime or a health emergency in their home, workplace or on the street. In Windsor, for example, a local parking garage collapsed and residents of a 35-unit apartment building were evacuated as a precaution until assurance of structural integrity could be provided by the Ministry of Labour. The Emergency Responders who deal with the immediate crisis with professionalism and expertise want to ensure that the victims and their families can get any help they need to pick up the pieces and begin the recovery process. Whether it is access to victim services, basic needs, support for grieving family members, or health resources, 211 has information about all of the services. 24-hours a day, 7 days a week, 211 Information and Referral specialists assess the caller’s needs and provide them with the information and support to contact the agencies that can help them.People who are connected to appropriate community supports are less likely to need emergency services in the future.

In Eastern Ontario, 211 is working very closely with Police, Paramedics and Fire services to ensure that front line staff are aware of 211 and can refer clients to the phone or web service. “Our Paramedics deal with all sorts of high-risk populations in their work, and are highly trained to deal with their medical issues,” says Chief Michael Nolan, Chief of Paramedics for Renfrew County, “but they are not always aware of the full range of social services and community resources that may be available.We are happy to work with the 211 service to leverage their expertise and their extensive database of services to connect people with the supports they need in the long term.”

In Ottawa, the newly-formed Coordinated Victims Assistance Network (CVAN) is working to create a “no wrong door” approach to help victims connect to supports.Ottawa Police, Ottawa Victim Services, and local victim-serving agencies hope to better coordinate efforts to ensure that victims can connect quickly to immediate and longer-term supports throughout the recovery process.This includes an easy point of entry through 211 Eastern Region, providing victims and those who serve them with 24-hour a day access to professional information and referral.

211 service can also be used to prevent crises by getting important information out to people. 211 Windsor-Essex became the community’s inquiry line for information about the H1N1 flu in 2009. Dr. Heimann, Medical Officer of Health, said “211 has been of great assistance to the Health Unit in getting information to the public in a prompt and efficient manner.  We couldn’t have done it without them.”

Through the support of the Ontario Ministry of Community and Social Services,and some Municipalities and United Ways, 211 service providers are available to,all Ontario residents to help people navigate the complex system of social, health and government services in the community.The Ontario Trillium Foundation is supporting 211 providers to strengthen their emergency related work with partners. Whether it is a large-scale emergency or a personal disaster, the 211 providers help those in crisis deal with their immediate struggles and head down the road to recovery.