City hopes to expand 3-1-1

PARKERSBURG – Officials say Parkersburg hasn’t seen much use of its 3-1-1 information number but hope the service soon will be expanding to reach more residents.

The city announced in November it would offer a 3-1-1 information call line to help redirect some non-emergency calls from the Wood County 911 Center. The 3-1-1 line would allow residents to receive updates and information during a severe storm or other emergency, such as the June derecho that damaged buildings, downed trees and knocked out power to much of the region and state.

“Back during the storm, had we had 3-1-1 in play, a lot of people could have just called 3-1-1 instead of trying to go through 9-1-1 for non-emergency calls,” said Mayor Bob Newell. “It keeps people off of the emergency lines when they are just looking for information.”

So far, the 3-1-1 number has seen little use. When it was announced in November, the service was only available to residents on the Frontier Communications network. Since then Suddenlink Communications customers have been added, but Newell said most people still don’t know the service exists.

The city is hoping to add more carriers to the mix and plans to make an announcement to residents via robo-calls about the service.

“It is a work in progress and we hope to have it fine tuned here soon,” he said.

Officials stress emergency calls should still go through 9-1-1 and the 3-1-1 number is only for information. Typically, the 3-1-1 line can be used to report code enforcement issues, problems with street lights, traffic lights, and signs. Additionally, information on recycling, trash pickup, leaf pickup, snow removal and other complaints will go to the 3-1-1 line.

If the operator cannot answer the request, inquiries will be routed to the proper department. Newell said callers should get an answer within 48 hours, if possible.

The 3-1-1 service is only available during normal business hours of 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. An answering machine will record messages after hours and on holidays and weekends. Calls will be returned the following business day, Newell said.

During a state of emergency the hours would be expanded.