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Day 1098: City Of NO’s 311 Evac Hotline Doesn’t Work

Update: 311 registration not needed to get on N.O. buses! All New Orleans residents will have access to mass transit services to assist with an evacuation regardless of whether they have registered with the city’s 311 information hotline, officials said Friday. Find the nearest pick-up site.

City Of New Orleans 311 Evac Hotline

Excerpt from an email Editor B forwarded to the NOLA bloggers this morning. I’ve heard from another blogger and a couple of residents that they experienced similar delays with the city’s 311 evacuation hotline.

As Gustav Approaches, A Community-Based Test Shows City’s 311 Evacuation Hotline Doesn’t Work

Residents in poor communities face exclusion from evacuation as 311 problems foreshadow black and immigrant workers’ lack of access to emergency help. On the eve of the third anniversary of Katrina, a community-based testing of the city’s emergency evacuation hotline revealed serious breakdowns in the city’s emergency plan for Hurricane Gustav.

After day laborers, homeless residents, workers reported an inability to officially register for evacuation support through the city’s highly publicized 311 number, the New Orleans Workers’ Center for Racial Justice systematically tested the 311 hotline. The results of the test validated the anxieties of city’s most vulnerable residents what the statistics also suggested – that poor people in New Orleans are likely to be left behind, again. “I’ve been trying to get through for over a week and a half,” said African American New Orleans resident and mother, Stephanie Martin. “I’m very worried about what will happen to my son and I if there is a hurricane. My car isn’t reliable, and I don’t know how we’ll be able to evacuate.”

Over a 24 hour period, testers called the 311 hotline attempting to register for evacuation. Testers were only able to get beyond a busy signal on the 56th call and were connected to an operator after a 27 minute long wait. Of the over 150 calls made, only 1 call reached a live operator. No calls requesting Spanish language assistance were connected to an operator.

The City has asserted that any resident relying on the City for evacuation must register by calling the 311 line. The operator answering the 56th call confirmed this, telling the tester that registering through 311 was mandatory in order to board a city bus in the event of an evacuation.

… The city’s own statistics exposed the 311 inadequacies over a year ago. At current capacity, it would take 311 operators more than 4 months to register the 42,000 evacuees with ‘special needs’ based on the call volume from the 2007 hurricane season. Furthermore, it would take the same four months to advise the ‘special needs’ evacuees of the evacuation plans if each called 311 once in the face of an imminent evacuation.

Now, I go see if we have the ingredients for a Downed Power Line.

– 1 1/2 oz. rum
– 5 oz. Jolt Cola
Combine ingredients in a cocktail glass.
Drink while trying to figure out how the heck you’re supposed to go two freakin’ weeks without television and AC.

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