Office of Operations
21st Century Operations Using 21st Century Technologies

8.2 Services

8.2.1  2-1-1 System

A new 2-1-1 system provides social services information to citizens during times of crises and is currently available in 32 states. 2-1-1 is a human resources referral agency that “provides callers with information about and referrals to human services for everyday needs and in times of crisis. For example, 2-1-1 can offer access to the following types of services:

  • Basic Human Needs Resource: food banks, clothing closets, shelters, rent assistance, utility assistance.
  • Physical and Mental Health Resources: health insurance programs, Medicaid and Medicare, maternal health, Children's Health Insurance Program, medical information lines, crisis intervention services, support groups, counseling, drug and alcohol intervention and rehabilitation,” as reported on the Web site.

During the Graniteville incident, the Salvation Army/United Way manned the telephone line and was a “talking human resource directory” for residents of the community. Information ranged from what we can do to help, to what agencies can help, to where we can go to get food. The 2-1-1 system moved telephone traffic away from the 911 system and allowed the 911 system to remain open for emergency use.

Safe Community Alert Network (SCAN)

One fire department interviewed for this report mentioned its department signed up for a communication system called SCAN that provides emergency management information to both the public and emergency responders.

According to SCAN it is “a public warning system that allows local police departments, fire departments, emergency management services organizations, schools and public safety agencies to broadcast emergency information directly to the computers, mobile phones, pagers and personal digital assistants of their neighborhood and local residents”. Through SCAN, residents can now receive immediate alerts for neighborhood crime and terrorism, sexual predators moving into the area, weather and natural disasters, cyber attacks, fire advisories, health emergencies, as well as neighborhood public safety information.

The SCAN service broadcasts alerts as they become available in the zip code areas for which users have registered. SCAN maintains a 24-hour, 7-day service and support bureau that collects and reviews alert content and broadcasts those alerts to those registered users that have opted-in to the SCAN service.

Registered users receive the SCAN service free of charge. SCAN is free of charge to all public safety agencies of all types, municipal, county, state and federal, as well as schools, colleges and universities, and hospitals.

SCAN is available now to all US residents. Agencies are broadcasting alerts throughout California, Nevada, and Texas. As of the writing of this document, agencies in other states will be broadcasting alerts to their residents as they come online with the SCAN service during 2005.

SCAN is presented by SCAN USA Corporation and parent company Sharp Holding Corporation through a public-private partnership in conjunction with the National Coalition of Public Safety Officers (NCPSO), the California Organization of Police and Sheriffs (COPS), and SBC Communications.

This service was first launched on December 17, 2004, in Bell Gardens, California.

As reported by Fox 5 News ( on September 13, 2005, the:

Las Vegas Metro Police Department (LVMPD) announced today it will soon begin using SCAN USA as a means of sending emergency alert messages to members of the outlying communities. These alerts will warn residents of dangerous conditions such as fire, flood, or avalanche. Through SCAN USA, LVMPD will be able to send these alerts directly to the computers, mobile phones, personal digital assistants, pagers and fax machines of the residents it serves.

LVMPD is encouraging residents to register free of charge to receive these alerts, at In the past, it has been extremely difficult to ensure all of the residents have been notified in a timely manner of a pending emergency.

SCAN USA is part of a national alert system that allows public safety and law enforcement departments to broadcast localized emergency information directly to the computer, mobile phones, and personal digital assistants of its citizens. With SCAN USA, law enforcement and public safety agencies can communicate almost instantaneously with neighborhood residents to provide them with information that can help protect their family, friends and neighbors.

SCAN is a free service to public agencies and the consumer that allows for text messaging or Web messaging of public service announcements. The consumer can specify the type of message they want to receive, and the message can be sent to personal digital assistants, cell phones, pagers, computers, etc. In addition, an entity can use the service to notify special staff, such as Emergency Operations Center staff, with the use of a password.

February 6, 2006
Publication #FHWA-HOP-08-014