Dial 311 for non-emergencies

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COLUMBIA - In case of a non-emergency, Boone County residents and visitors are encouraged to dial 311.

Chad Martin, the director of Boone County Joint Communications, said the phone number is intended to separate emergency from non-emergency calls. He said this will help staff prioritize calls to address urgent, emergency situations first. 

"We noticed over time that there are an increasing number of non-emergency calls being placed into 911," Martin said. "We're already facing a staffing shortage now that we are working on, but this is just another tool to help until we get our staffing numbers up."

He said, right now, there are fifteen open operator positions. 

"We had the vacancies for a number of years, but the old building downtown did not allow us train the number of people we need to train to fill the vacancies," Martin said.

According to the Boone County 311 website, emergencies include an "immediate threat to life or bodily injury, all fire and medical emergencies, crimes in progress, immediate threat to property and gun related incidents." The website lists non-emergencies as "abandoned vehicles, noise complaints, lost or stolen property, requesting police reports and parking issues."

Martin said he hopes people will use the 311 non-emergency line.

"It's a quick easy dial, it's easy to remember and easy to dial number," he said.

Thomas Webster, who works as an emergency telecommunicator at Joint Communications, said he has answered 911 calls for the past two years. 

"When you answer the calls you immediately get a sense of what type of incident it is that you are looking at," he said.

He said some of these calls are categorized as non-emergencies. Calls coming into the 311 line are now separated from calls coming to 911, a change Webster views as positive.  

"It will help those who really are experiencing an emergency to get the immediate response that they need," Webster said. 

He said 911 calls will be prioritized, but calls coming in from 311 will receive assistance.

In addition to 311, the previous non-emergency line will also be available to dial at (573) 442-6131. 

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