Southborough to join Mass 2-1-1 system

Like those across the Commonwealth, Southborough residents can dial 2-1-1 from any phone to get statewide health and human services information and referrals. Pretty soon, you’ll also be able to dial 2-1-1 to get information about things going on right here in town.

At the urging of emergency management personnel, Southborough selectmen earlier this year voted to tap into the statewide 2-1-1 system as a way to disseminate non-emergency information to Southborough residents.

Southborough Emergency Director of Operations Neal Aspesi told selectmen the reverse-911 system adopted a few years ago by the town is effective in getting the word out to residents in the event of an emergency, but it has some limitations, including the length and content of the message.

Aspesi said when appropriate, a reverse-911 message could instruct residents to dial 2-1-1 to get more detailed information about a particular incident. For example, Aspesi said the town of Weston used the 2-1-1 system to share information about a major water main break last year.

The 2-1-1 system was started by the United Way in 1997. It is still funded and operated by the non-profit with assistance federal and local governments. Massachusetts has offered the system to local municipalities at no cost.

“It’s a very good asset, especially since the cost is free, to get information out to the public,” Aspesi said.

Selectman Bill Boland said he supported joining the program as long as the 2-1-1 system was not used to replace reverse-911 calls, but to enhance them.

Aspesi said in an email earlier this month that the Southborough Emergency Management Agency is working on the final requirements and will soon roll out a public awareness campaign on how and when to use Mass 2-1-1.

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