U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer, Congresswoman Nita Lowey and Yonkers Mayor Phil Amicone today announced that the Omnibus appropriations bill includes $400,000 for the City of Yonkers for its 311 communication center and will help improve emergency response time across the city. The 311 system will establish a new community relations management system that will help the City Government be more responsive to the needs of residents and visitors. Senator Schumer and Rep. Lowey worked to include this funding in the 2009 appropriations bill that passed the House last Tuesday and is set to clear the Senate next week. Schumer and Lowey said the new 311 system will improve emergency response time across Yonkers, by diverting nonemergency calls from the current 911 system.
"This is terrific news for residents and public safety officials throughout the City of Yonkers," said Schumer. "This communications center will set up a 311 number to handle nonemergency calls, meaning that the 911 system will only be used for emergencies. This will streamline emergency response services across the city, making them more efficient and effective, and will ensure our first responders can act quickly when we need their help the most."
"Directing nonemergency calls away from emergency operators will streamline services and improve emergency response," said Lowey. "It will help police officers, firefighters, and emergency medical personnel reach those in need of assistance more quickly, making the City of Yonkers safer. I will continue working with Senator Schumer to ensure the federal government supports initiatives that help our first responders keep our community safe."
"Each year, 80% of all 911 calls received by the City of Yonkers are not true emergencies," said Mayor Amicone. "Implementing a 311 Call Center would dramatically reduce our 911 call volume, thereby greatly improving response time for true emergency calls. Our residents will benefit from this important interactive 311 phone system because it allows them to speak directly with a live person and discuss their nonemergency problems. I would like to thank Senator Schumer and Congresswoman Lowey for securing this $400,000 grant which will help our City move forward with this important project."
Since its use was adopted in 1967, the widespread use of 911 as an emergency number has vastly improved emergency response time and saved many lives. It's estimated that more than 90% of the U.S. population lives in areas covered by 911. Unfortunately, the ease of use of 911 leads some people looking for information from their city government to overuse the hotline. Some municipalities, including New York City, have set up a 311 line for people who need general information or want to report nonemergency problems. This helps to save 911 for real emergencies and keeps operators from getting bogged down in nonemergency situations.
The $400,000 in federal funds that Senator Schumer and Rep. Lowey helped secure for the City of Yonkers will be used to transform the current Mayor's Helpline into a 311 Communications Center to handle nonemergency calls and ensure the 911 system is used only for emergency calls. The City of Yonkers will use funding to improve its emergency services, communications, and service delivery to the public by establishing a new community relations management system. The call center will facilitate and improve response time for emergencies and non emergencies. The 311 system is part of an ongoing effort by the City of Yonkers to make emergency response more efficient and help City Government to be more responsive to the needs of residents and visitors.
Currently, the City of Yonkers receives approximately 100,000 emergency calls a year in addition to 500,000 nonemergency calls. Yonkers already has an Action Center that acts as a helpline for nonemergency service related calls. The Action Center, which is also referred to as the Mayor's Helpline, receives approximately 150,000 calls a year -all nonemergency and city service related calls. A 311 system in Yonkers will consolidate the City's current helpline call center into a central system thereby helping the City Government to better manage its resources.
With the $400,000 in funding, the City of Yonkers will be able to integrate their existing system into the new and improved 311 call center and operate continuously on a 24 hour a day basis. The system will include such services as Computer Telephony integration, where Caller I.D. automatically populates fields with the caller's address and phone numbers to ultimately send to the proper city agency. This information could be sent directly to the Police Department's Computer Aided Dispatch system to become the basis of a police report. The funding will also support installation of the needed software and scripts for the various agencies within the City.
After recognizing the need for an integrated, fully functioning 311 system, the City of Yonkers submitted a request to Senator Schumer and Congresswoman Lowey last year for assistance in obtaining funds that would cover the cost of equipment and resources needed to set up the 311 system.
Today, Senator Schumer and Rep. Lowey announced that they successfully secured $400,000 in the 2009 Omnibus spending bill for a 311 Communications Center to improve emergency response time across the city. They committed to continuing their efforts to provide financial support for the city's needs. Both members of the delegation committed to further supporting the efforts to get this system fully operational.
Schumer said, "This funding is a winwin for the City of Yonkers. It ensures emergencies can be dealt with swiftly and efficiently and also guarantees that residents who are dealing with nonemergency situations have access to information that can support their quality of life.