Kent Fire Department recommends 2-1-1 system for some emergency services | Kent Fire Department

One of the biggest roadblocks to people getting help for basic services is the bewildering maze of phone numbers available for a variety of health and human services.

If a person is in need of assistance, which one is the correct one? Often, people call 9-1-1 when they are not sure which way to turn. According to the Kent Fire Department, for many of these people, 2-1-1 is a better resource, though it is important to remember that 2-1-1 is NOT intended to replace 9-1-1 for potential life and property threatening situations.

The 2-1-1 service, which is available in King County, is spearheaded nationally by United Way and the Alliance for Information and Referral Systems and is intended to provide all residents with access to essential services.In King County, the 2-1-1 program’s parent agency is the Crisis Clinic and is funded by United Way of King County, city of Seattle, King County Veterans and Human Services Levy, Washington State, WIN211, and a variety of cities including Covington, Kent, and SeaTac. King County 2-1-1 is accredited by the Alliance of Information and Referral Systems.

Some of the services that can be reached by dialing 2-1-1:

• Food/clothing banks

• Addiction support

• Suicide prevention

• Assistance for aging parents

• Physical and mental health resources

• Work support and job training

• Legal/financial assistance

When a person calls 2-1-1, they talk to an Information and Referral Specialist who is an expert in understanding the eligibility requirements of local human service systems. They can coach callers on the best way to present their situation to the appropriate agency. They can also problem-solve with the caller when services are not available. There are over 5,000 services and 1,500 agencies listed with King County 2-1-1. These services are available in several different languages. Hours of operation are M-F 8:00 am – 6:00 pm.

For more on the 2-1-1 system, go to for local information and for the national program. Again, while not intended to replace 9-1-1, the 2-1-1 service provides callers with a wealth of local information and resources.


We encourage an open exchange of ideas on this story's topic, but we ask you to follow our guidelines for respecting community standards. Personal attacks, inappropriate language, and off-topic comments may be removed, and comment privileges revoked, per our Terms of Use. Please see our FAQ if you have questions or concerns about using Facebook to comment.

Read the Oct 21
Green Edition

Browse the print edition page by page, including stories and ads.

Browse the archives.

Friends to Follow

View All Updates