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United Way Blog

The Imperative of Preparedness: New Jersey 211’s Disaster Response

On September 1, 2021, Tropical Storm Ida unleashed torrential rains over New Jersey, submerging homes and rendering personal vehicles useless. Amidst the ensuing chaos, New Jersey's 211 service emerged as a beacon of hope and logistical support. Within a week, in collaboration with the Governor's Office, Uber, Lyft, and United Way Worldwide, NJ 211 began distributing rideshare coupons, facilitating transportation for medical appointments, vehicle repairs, and daily necessities. In the wake of tragedy, 211 has become an indispensable lifeline.

Authorized under the state's emergency plan, the 211 service is not an ad hoc arrangement but a well-integrated element within New Jersey's strategies for mass care, public health, and communication. The initiative ensures that 9-1-1 lines are reserved for emergencies, while 211 handles non-emergency inquiries ranging from public safety to social services. Furthermore, 211 provides a conduit for collecting caller needs and identifying service gaps, which is vital data for emergency planners. The service extends its reach by providing verified information through its dedicated webpage and sharing data with NJ Office of Emergency Management and NJVOAD.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, NJ 211 revived a hotline for handling over 110,000 general inquiries, relieving the overwhelmed NJ Poison Control Center. The synergy between governmental, nonprofit, and commercial sectors enables 211 to act swiftly and efficiently, making it an invaluable asset during crises.

Beyond the Emergency

211's role is not confined to moments of extreme crisis; its utility lies in its ongoing outreach programs. Through its text platform campaign, ReadyNJ, the service disseminates emergency preparedness information to the public. Topics range from safe grilling practices to hurricane preparedness, and include guidance on how to involve children in these important discussions. This campaign is not merely informational; it also helps with registering for the New Jersey Special Needs Database, Register Ready, further underscoring the comprehensive nature of 211's offerings.

Their website and social media channels regularly update the public with easily digestible, essential information, aiming to mitigate the anxiety that typically accompanies disasters. Being prepared is not just beneficial; it is vital for clear thinking and effective action in emergency situations.

A Checklist for Preparedness

As we navigate an era increasingly marked by natural disasters, preparedness becomes more crucial than ever. Resources such as FEMA,, and RedCross offer extensive guides on disaster preparedness, particularly for hurricanes, which are of special concern to New Jersey residents. NJ 211 serves as a testament to what can be achieved when public and private sectors collaborate effectively. It stands as an example, not just of logistical success, but of the civic unity essential in the face of crises large and small.

For more information on hurricane preparedness, visit NJ211's Hurricane information site.