News : South Bend 311 Center Keeps Steady Call Volume in Extreme Weather
South Bend, IN, Jan 8, 2015 -- It's a valuable resource to get your questions answered, especially in the extreme weather conditions we’ve experienced this week. WSBT 22 spent some time inside South Bend’s 311 call center – a place people who live in South Bend can call for free to get answers to just about any question they have.
Anytime there’s bad weather, that’s what people call about most.
Every day, the 6 full time and 1 part time call center liaisons field between 400 and 1,300 calls from people who need help.
"One of the things we don’t do is patch you through so you get to a voicemail where somebody is on vacation," explained 311 call center director Cynthia Simmons. "We make sure a live person is on the phone so you don't have to redial."
Liason Cathleen Sutherland described Thursday’s call variety as "a little bit of everything."
"Some water calls – of course, billing is our highest call volume so we always have that – and then there’s anything that’s weather related. Streets need to be plowed or salted," she said.
Sutherland and the rest of the crew also got several calls Thursday about a massive power line down at the intersection of Edison Road and State Road 23 that ultimately resulted in an emergency power outage for some 650 Indiana Michigan Power customers nearby.
"There’s a lot of people home today due to the weather so they're going to probably be cold," Sutherland said. "So the information we can give them is that we have warming centers."
The 311 liaisons also had a rough idea from I&M about when the power and heat were expected to be back on.
Sutherland also got a call from a resident who reported water leaking into their basement. She immediately dispatched street department crews to the neighborhood, on the city’s northwest side. They discovered and repaired a water line break nearby.
"Need to help those people, hopefully," Sutherland said.
Every call to 311 is documented on a computer which creates a paper trail so no one's concerns or issues slip between the cracks. If 311 doesn’t immediately have the answer to your question, they’ll find out and call you back.
It’s important to remember the number is not an emergency line. It was put in place to offset the number of non-emergency calls to 911.
The line is open 7:30 to 5:30, Monday through Friday.
If you’re outside city limits and need to reach the call center, you can dial (574) 233-0311.
Posted by Veronica Silva Cusi, news correspondent
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