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211 provided critical information to Fort McMurray Evacuees

211 provided critical information to Fort McMurray Evacuees

No one can predict when a disaster like the Wood Buffalo/Fort McMurray wildfires may occur- nor the emotional trauma and devastation that is left in its wake.

211 service was available for those who needed it most. Information & Referral Specialists are highly skilled in crisis intervention, and are prepared to support a community during a time of crisis. 211 is a simple way for people to connect with thousands of government, community and social services as well as provide emotional support to callers and chatters who need it the most.

Tens of thousands of residents were displaced throughout Alberta during the evacuation of Fort McMurray and the Wood Buffalo region last year. On the morning of May 4, 2016 various organizations invested in providing 211 service across the province met to ensure evacuees could get connected with services, no matter where they were in Alberta.

Two 1-800 numbers were activated to connect callers to the contact centres in Edmonton and Calgary, and an online chat service was implemented. The data team tracked rapidly changing information during the initial days of the evacuation to ensure the list of essential services was responsive and accessible on the ab.211.ca website. People wanting to donate items or volunteer their time could also connect with 211.

“We were able to reach evacuees throughout the province when they needed help the most via their iPhone (chat and website) which was their lifeline while displaced,” stated Robyn Romano, 211 Program Supervisor, Distress Centre Calgary. “Information and Referral Specialists were able to provide up-to-date information related to the evacuation through 211 and help reduce the frustration hundreds were feeling.”

Here are some of the calls 211 received during the evacuation:

A father phoned 211 looking for advice on bringing his children back to Fort McMurray to pick up their belongings. He had concerns about how his children were coping with the fire and their lost belongings. The children were really missing their home since the evacuation so 211 connected the father to counselling services that the family could access while coping through this difficult time.

During the initial days of evacuations a worker from the reception centre at SAIT in Calgary called 211 for assistance in helping a large number of young children at the reception centre who were in need of strollers, car seats, play pens, and cribs. The Information and Referral Specialist contacted several community agencies and within a few hours 211 had located the needed items and had them delivered to the reception centre.

A volunteer with the Red Cross accessed the 211 chat service looking to obtain a list of available community resources for fire evacuees. The Information and Referral Specialist directed the volunteer to the ab.211.ca website where a list of available resources and services throughout Alberta was being updated daily.

These are just three success stories related to the Wood Buffalo/Fort McMurray wildfires and how 211 helped the thousands of evacuees cope with one of Alberta’s biggest disasters. Learn more about how 211 responded to this crisis by reading the

You can reach 211 by phone 24/7. Visit our website to see where 211 is provided in Alberta. If you don’t want to call, live chat is available at ab.211.ca from 12pm-8pm, 7 days a week.

In the spirit of respect, reciprocity and truth, Distress Centre Calgary would like to honour and acknowledge Moh’kinsstis, and the traditional Treaty 7 territory and oral practices of the Blackfoot confederacy: Siksika, Kainai, Piikani, as well as the Îyâxe Nakoda and Tsuut’ina nations. We acknowledge that this territory is home to the Métis Nation of Alberta, Region 3 within the historical Northwest Métis homeland. Finally, we acknowledge all Nations – Indigenous and non – who live, work and play on this land, and who honour and celebrate this territory.