311: The number to call

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WINNIPEG - The next time you need to know: if there is an overnight parking ban in your area or what day it is in the garbage day and school day cycle, or even if you need to report a bad pothole on your street, or to get a city regulation clarified, who are you going to call? With over 500 telephone numbers listed to access city services, finding the right number to call has been a challenge – until now.

Winnipeg’s new 311 telephone service began operating on January 16. The system is designed to give Winnipeggers a single number to call for information about all things civic and to lighten the load of 911 emergency operators who, in the past, were often overburdened with non-urgent and even trivial calls.

The consolidated contact centre operates 24 hours a day, 365 days a year with up to 50 operators working at peak hours to route calls to various city departments and to answer enquiries. Over 18,000 calls to 311 were received in the first three days of operation, though some Winnipeggers who had dialled a city department directly were chagrined to discover that their calls were automatically redirected to the 311 call centre where operators then connected them to the department they calling in the first place. However, officials believe the convenience of having a single number for callers to remember outweighs the inconvenience of a delay.

City of Winnipeg officials stress that the 311 service is intended for questions and requests about non-emergency services. According to CRTC regulations, 311 operators are not allowed to transfer calls to the 911 emergency line. Callers who request an emergency service through the 311 number will be advised to hang up and call 911 directly.

The 311 call centre operates in English and French, and maintains a list of city staff members able to interpret in many other languages. The hearing-impaired can call the centre by TTY at 986-1311. The service can be accessed by fax at 311 as well as by e-mail at 311@winnipeg.ca. Out-of-towners can call the City of Winnipeg toll-free at 1-877-311-4WPG.