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The National Response Center and FCC Dedicated Phone Lines

Posted on Thu, Aug 09, 2012

The National Response Center (NRC) is the sole federal point of contact for spills of hazardous materials. The NRC, which is staffed on a 24-hour basis, was given the responsibility of receiving incident reports involving hazardous materials regulated under the Hazardous Materials Transportation Act for the transportation of hazardous materials (49 CFR 171), for natural gas and other gases transported by pipeline (49 CFR 191), and for liquids transported by pipeline (49 CFR 195). All facilities involved in these activities should include the National Response Center reporting number, (800) 424-8802, in the notification section of an emergency response plan.

However, not all emergencies involve hazardous material or the requirement to contact the National Response Center. Specific emergency and non-emergency notification resources include a series of assigned three digit phone numbers. In May 2012, The U.S. Department of Transportation's Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) issued “One Call” grants in excess of $1 million to support states' 8-1-1 safe digging call centers in an effort to reduce pipeline digging accidents.

“One-third of all serious pipeline accidents are caused by someone digging and hitting a pipeline by mistake. In fact, between 1988 and 2010, excavation damage was responsible for $438,785,552 in property damage.” - PHMSA

The most commonly recognized emergency number is 9-1-1. Since September 11, 2001 and Hurricane Katrina, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has taken important steps to ensure that the emergency 911 services and other critical communications remain operational when disasters strike. Efforts to include wireless communication networks into the emergency call systems have been successful. Three digit phone lines are dedicated to a variety of services. While some of these lines are fee based, others are provided free of charge.  The following describes existing three-digit numbers:

  • 9-1-1: Emergency services- In October 1999, the Wireless Communications and Public Safety Act of 1999 (9-1-1 Act) took effect, encouraging and facilitating the prompt deployment of a free nationwide, seamless communications infrastructure for emergency services. One provision of the 9-1-1 Act directs the FCC to make 9-1-1 the universal emergency number for all telephone service, including wireless services.
  • 8-1-1:  Pipeline safety call center- Calls are routed to local call centers. The operator reports the location of the planned dig, type of work to be performed, and notifies affected local utilities companies. Within a few days, a locator will arrive to mark the approximate location of the underground lines, pipes and cables surrounding the dig site.
  • 7-1-1: Telecommunications Relay Services (TRS)- The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has adopted use of the 711 dialing code for access to TRS. TRS permits persons with a hearing or speech disability to use the telephone system via a text telephone (TTY) or other device to call persons with or without such disabilities.
  •  6-1-1: Service Provider Customer services- The 611 number is not officially assigned by the (FCC) or the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC), but both have chosen not to disturb the assignment as it is generally recognized across the North American Numbering Plan Administration (NANPA) for being used to report a problem with telephone service.
  • 5-1-1: Travel Information- In July of 2000, the FCC designated "511" as the single traffic information telephone number to be made available to states and local jurisdictions across the country. The Federal Highway administration website provides additional details regarding the travel information dedicated line.
  • 4-1-1: Local directory assistance and Information- These call typically involves a surcharge.
  • 3-1-1: Non emergency- Calls to 311 are routed either to a separate center and handled by non-public safety personnel, or routed to the same center where 911 and other public safety calls are handled, depending on the circumstances.
  • 2-1-1: State specific resource for basic health and human services - As of October 2011, all 50 states (including 37 states with 90%+ coverage) plus Washington DC and Puerto Rico are included in the 2-1-1 applied regions. As of May 2011, more than 56% of Canadians have access to 2-1-1 services. Visit 2-1-1 Canada from more information.

For an understanding of the necessary elements in creating an effective fire pre plan, download our Fire Pre Planning Guide.

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Tags: Emergency Management, Crisis Management, Event Preparedness, Business Continuity Plan, Disaster Response, National Preparedness, Notification Systems, Chemical Industry