Thursday, December 23, 2010


We've all heard of 9-1-1, the single number to reach emergency services which began way back in 1968.  But did you know that other countries use 1-1-2, 9-9-9 and a host of other numbers to reach various services.  For example, Brazil uses 1-9-0 to reach the police, 1-9-2 to contact medical services and 1-9-4 to find the fire department, and a handful of other sequences for more specialized services.  That would be too much for me to remember, particularly in an emergency situation.

You also likely familiar with 4-1-1, the short-cut to reach directory services, which can add a significant amount to your monthly phone bill if you're particularly lazy or forgetful.  But did you know that free alternatives exist?  Jingle Network's 1-800-FREE-411, Microsoft's 1-800-BING-411 and Verizon's 1-800-THE-INFO are provided free of charge, although some are advertising supported.  On the plus side, driving directions, sports, weather and other features may be available.  You won't talk to a human being, but with the recent advances in speech recognition, the computer is most likely going to get your request correct more often than not.

Now to the services you may not be familiar with, mostly depending on what part of the country you live.  

2-1-1 is reserved for community services such as affordable housing, homelessness, drug and alcohol programs and suicide prevention.  Many of these 2-1-1 services are run by a local United Way agency, as they are in the Dayton, Ohio area.   They also have a web site and a toll-free number to reach agencies when outside the local 2-1-1 dialling area.  More information on their service, HelpLink, is at

3-1-1 is the non-emergency version of 9-1-1, but is available in only a couple dozen, large metropolitan areas.  Its purpose is to easily connect residents to city services and information.  Columbus is the only city in Ohio currently with 3-1-1 service, including their web site at  Examples of the many services offered include requesting a bulk trash pickup, reporting issues with street lights or pot holes, reporting an abandoned car or complaining about a barking dog.

5-1-1 gets you connected to traffic information and covers a large percentage of the United States, and a coverage map can be found at  The only service available in Ohio serves the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky region with an effort called ARTISMIS, which stands for "The Advanced Regional Traffic Interactive Management & Information System".  More information on the services offered are located at  You can also try out the service for yourself by dialling 1-513-333-3333.

7-1-1 is the Telephone Relay Service and is provided nationwide for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing with more details provided at  

6-1-1 is used to contact your phone provider.  The informational web site,, provides more information.  Most locations should have this service, and it should be free

8-1-1 is the nationwide "call before you dig" number, which seeks to protect our underground infrastructure.  Its web site is

A summary chart of all N-1-1 numbers is available at

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