Most of us here in the United States are aware of the 911 short code to obtain emergency assistance. I was surprised to learn that in the U.S. there are many additional short codes beyond 911 you can dial on your home phone, also referred to as a landline. If you’re looking for help, trying to file a complaint, requiring utility locates, etc., the following 3-digit phone numbers will be useful. Most of these numbers provide their information in both English and Spanish. Some wireless phone service providers have begun to incorporate these numbers into their system as well. You’ll need to check with your provider to verify.
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211 – Social Services: For families in need, this number will connect you to information and referral for everything from food stamps, insurance for children, evacuation procedures for the disabled, social security, and more. You can cut through the red tape of endless menus and actually get the information you need to apply for a wide array of programs. During “normal business hours”, at some point you can even speak to a human being that can provide you with phone numbers to most of your local health and human resources. They may also be able to answer questions that don’t have menu options.
311 – City Services: Most major cities use this number to provide city information about permits, department calendars of events, and filing complaints about potholes or code violations. There are often menus providing other department telephone numbers for your city as well.
411 – Information: Need a phone number or physical street address? Just dial these three numbers. While this is no longer a free call in most states, you can get up to two phone numbers and two addresses during one call. If you mumble your answer to the “city and state please” request, you will be connected to a live operator who can help you more thoroughly. This is especially helpful if you are uncertain about the location of a particular person or business.
Note: If you dial 1 (800) FREE 411, or 1 (800) 373-3411 from most phones it IS free. (It’s more than three digits, but I wanted to include it anyway).
511 – Traffic or Weather Information: A large number of cities provide a local overview of traffic situations and/or weather and is usually updated once an hour. Try dialing 511 in your city and see what happens. If your location doesn’t provide this service, you will be advised via recording that the number is not in use.
611 – Your cell phone provider: Okay, this is not for landlines, but it’s worth mentioning. It’s a shortcut to reach your provider to report problems.
711– Telecommunications Relay Service: For TTY users in most states. This code allows those who are deaf, hearing-impaired, or speech-impaired to connect to a normal telephone or another TTY terminal. This service enables impaired individuals to “speak” over the phone using their keypad device and is similar to texting.
811 – Where to Dig: Homeowners and contractors can call this number to have local underground utility providers (water, sewer, cable, gas, electric, etc) come out and mark where it is safe to dig. Whether you are planning to fell a tree or install a sprinkler system, call this number first!
911 – EMERGENCIES: If you need immediate help from the Police or Fire Department, this is the number to dial. Also if you or someone with you needs an ambulance, this number will get the EMT (Emergency Medical Team) deployed to your location quickly.
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