The non-emergency telephone number 3-1-1 is a special N-1-1 telephone number in many communities in Canada and the United States that provides quick, easy-to-remember access to non-emergency municipal services or a Citizen Service Center. Dialing this number allows city residents (only in certain cities) to obtain important non-emergency services through a central, all-purpose phone number quickly and effectively.
3-1-1 is intended in part to divert routine inquiries and non-urgent community concerns from the emergency 9-1-1 number. A promotional website for 3-1-1 in Los Angeles described the distinction as follows: "Burning building? Call 9-1-1. Burning Question? Call 3-1-1."
The 311 code was previously used by some telephone companies for testing purposes. In Alberta, 311 was the ANAC number until April 1 2005 when this was changed to 958-6111 to make way for the present 3-1-1 service.
In former times, "311" was sometimes used as a fictitious area code in Bell System advertisements depicting telephones; often the phone in the advertisement would bear the specific number "Area Code 311 555-2368."
Examples of calls intended for 3-1-1:
While Baltimore was the first city to use 311 as a police non-emergency number, in January 1999 Chicago initiated the first comprehensive 3-1-1 system, by to providing information and tracking City services from intake to resolution, in addition to taking non-emergency police calls. When the new service was launched, information regarding all city services, service requests, assistance in reaching various city departments and public offices, and a variety of information ranging from information about the city's Blue Bag recycling program to special events schedules could be obtained by calling 3-1-1. This also supplanted the need to remember or find the number (312) 744-5000, which, until then, acted as a switching station for reaching various city departments and employees, as well as Chicago Police non-emergency (dialing this number today directs you to a 3-1-1 center operator from any area code). Since its launch, Chicago 3-1-1 has won numerous national awards, including the [Innovations in American Government Award]from the Ash Institute for Democratic Governance and Innovation at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government in 2003. In addition to providing seamless delivery of city services to residents, the call center serves as a backup to the City's 911 call center.
In New York City, 3-1-1 is used by city officials as one of several sources of measurement and information about the performance of city services. Important dates in the history of New York's 3-1-1 service include December 20, 2005, when it received its record high of 240,000 calls, due to the first day of the 2005 New York City transit strike, and June 20, 2007, when it received its 50 millionth call.
In San Francisco, 3-1-1 is the number for the City and County of San Francisco. It, like New York City, provides information for city services, such as transit information. San Francisco 3-1-1 was implemented in 2007 shortly after the launch of the T Third Street Muni light rail line.