Local 2-1-1 office helps with recovery from Ike

From Staff Reports

Sept. 22, 2008 - The local office of 2-1-1 Texas is among the area information centers across the state assisting in response and recovery efforts following Hurricane Ike.

Since Sept. 10, the Northeast Texas office assisted Texas coastal areas with response efforts and as of Saturday began helping with recovery operations.

The function of 2-1-1 Texas is to provide information, referral services and advocacy for individuals and families seeking help. It is also part of Texas' emergency preparedness and response system.

Statewide from Sept. 9 to Sept. 19, 2-1-1 Texas had handled 174,495 calls from individuals and families with needs ranging from evacuation, shelter, medical needs, locating missing family members as well as reporting to the State operations center calls requiring emergency response in areas where the local 911 system was devastated and unable to respond.

"One gulf coast Area Information Center (AIC) in Beaumont remains closed due to storm damage. The Houston 2-1-1 Texas AIC has reopened and is partially staffed with staff and volunteers, many of whom have been personally affected by the massive storm. Remaining AICs across the state are still contributing 100 percent of total staff and volunteers to respond to information and referral calls related to Hurricane Ike. All have extended business hours," said Dawn Sheffield, executive director of 2-1-1 Texas Northeast Texas region.

The 2-1-1 Texas office housed in Sulphur Springs has been staffed for 12 to 16 hours shifts since Sept. 10. Effective Saturday, the state will shift from response to recovery phases, which is anticipated to escalate the 211 call volume will continue to be about three times more than normal.

"Handling the local calls as well as disaster calls proves to be very challenging," Sheffield notes.

The top needs voiced to 2-11 by individuals and families affected by Hurricane Ike have been: emergency food assistance, evacuation transportation for re-entry into towns where re-entry is allowed, FEMA disaster assistance registration, advocacy for clients whose needs are not readily addressed, sheltering issues, food pantry locations, state unemployment insurance applications, ice and water.

For any questions about 211 Texas, or to volunteer to assist, call 903-885-9797.

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