Hurricane Irma Call Center in Sacramento Supporting Florida Residents
Hurricane Irma become such a serious threat that a non-emergency call center in Tampa, Florida was shut down, leaving residents without help or answers to their questions. With potentially life-threatening scenarios looming and in the interest of the safety of agents, the decision was taken to reroute inbound calls to an alternate call center at Goodwill in Sacramento, California. Keep in mind that the distance is a few thousand miles away, but that did not stop volunteers from jumping right in and doing what was needed to help a challenging situation – especially with 911 services so backlogged with massive call volumes.
According to Executive Director of 211 Sacramento, Richard Abrusci: “These folks have tried to call 911. The 911 has been backlogged and they’re not able to get through, so they call us!”
Some volunteers only get one hour of training and then it is right to work. If they have any questions that cannot be answered, volunteer, Kathy Mullen explained the solution: “If we have someone that’s calling, and we don’t know what to do, we raise our hand, put them on mute, and try to get some help.”
Normally, agents and call centers have to follow carefully formulated schedules that accommodate the ebb and flow of inbound call volumes, which requires planning and an understanding of customer tendencies. In cases like this, though, it’s all hands on deck and the center looks to maximize personnel at all times to not only accommodate its own needs, but to be able to provide as much support to Florida residents as much as possible.
For the agents, it’s not about the time, as the center is open 24/7 and most have said they will stay as long as it takes to get the job done.
The volunteers are able to tell callers where the closest shelters are as well as the best times to get to them. The agents may not be in the same state, but their dedication shows the kinds of compassion and understanding needed to make the best of a situation like this.
Volunteer Evelynne Drinker said, “I’ve got all the time in the world. You’re the only call I’ve got.”
Jason Shelley, another dedicated volunteer, added: “It doesn’t matter if a decision wasn’t made the best at the time, this is somebody’s crisis. We need to come in at any hour.”
The center is still actively looking for volunteers so please feel free to email Richard Abrusci at Rabrusci@211sacramento.org.
Edited by Erik Linask