2-1-1 FAQs

What is 2-1-1?

2-1-1 is a free, confidential helpline number that provides callers in need of social services with health and human service resources in their local community 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

When was 2-1-1 established?

In 2000, the Federal Communications Commission designated 2-1-1 the national community, human services and volunteer number.

2-1-1 is to social services what 9-1-1 is to emergency services.

What kinds of services does 2-1-1 provide?

Individuals call 2-1-1 who need information about food pantries, shelters, rental assistance, health care, counseling and much more in their local community.

Is there a  charge to use 2-1-1?

2-1-1 services are free. Your telephone provider’s long distance rates may apply if you are calling one of the local 10-digit numbers from out of the area. If you are calling from a cell phone, air time and other cell phone charges may apply. If you or a loved one needs help or support, pick up the phone and dial 2-1-1 today.

Does 2-1-1 operate during emergencies such as a power outage?

2-1-1 is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.  Depending on the nature of the emergency, residents can call 2-1-1 to get information such as the location of Red Cross shelters, cooling stations, and food distribution centers.

What happens if a call center loses electricity during a power outage?

All of the 2-1-1 call centers have generators. If the generator fails during a power outage, each jurisdiction has a back-up plan to forward calls to another 2-1-1 call center.

Can I use any phone to call 2-1-1?

You can dial 2-1-1 from most landlines, VoIP, and cellular carriers; however, some cell phone carriers and office buildings block access to all N11 number (2-1-1) numbers except 9-1-1.

I tried calling 2-1-1 from my cell phone and I get a fast busy signal when I dial 2-1-1?

Telephones that are not yet programmed for 2-1-1 will produce either a “fast busy” or a “not in service” recording.   If you are having problems dialing 2-1-1, call the 10-digit number in your jurisdiction.

For 2-1-1 service in the District of Columbia, dial 202-463-6211

For 2-1-1 service in Maryland, dial 800-492-0618(inside Maryland)

  • 2-1-1 calls in Southern Montgomery County & Prince Georges County 2-1-1 calls are by Community Crisis Services at 301-864-7161
  • 2-1-1 calls in Northern Montgomery County and Frederick County calls are answered by the Mental Health Association in Frederick at 1-866-411-6803
  • United Way Central Maryland:  1-800-492-0618
  • Eastern Shore:  1-866-231-7101

For 2-1-1 service in Virginia, dial 800-230-6977

Does the public have access to the regional database?

The public can access the regional database of health and human resources for the Washington metro area at 211metrodc.org.

The public can access District of Columbia’s resources at https://www.answers,please!

The public can access Virginia resources at 211.virginia.org.

The public can access Maryland resources at 211.maryland.org.

Who should I contact to update the information in the 2-1-1 database?

• In the District of Columbia,  e-mail http://answersplease.dc.gov

• In Maryland, e-mail info@211MD.org

• In Virginia, e-mail https://211virginia.org

What is the role of the United Way NCA with 2-1-1 in the National Capital Region?

United Way NCA supports a software platform that connects the 2-1-1 call center operators in DC, MD and VA to each jurisdiction’s database of social service resources.

United Way NCA supports 211metrodc.org that connects the public to health and human resources in DC, MD and Northern Virginia.

What is the 2-1-1 NCR Working Group?

In 2002, leading nonprofit organizations created the 2-1-1 Work Group to bring 2-1-1 service to the Washington metro area.

Work Group members represent 2-1-1 Answers, Please! in the District of Columbia, 2-1-1 Maryland and 2-1-1 Virginia.

Is 2-1-1 service located in other parts of the country?

2-1-1 is located in 92.6% of the country.  The National 2-1-1 map is located at  www.211us.org.

How can I help a relative or friend who lives in another state contact 2-1-1 for help?

Go to www.211.org and follow directions for locating the closest 2-1-1 call center to the person you are trying to help.

How can I find out more about 2-1-1 service in the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia?

• For information about 2-1-1 in the District of Columbia, dial 202-463-6211  or e-mail http://answersplease.dc.

• For information 2-1-1 in Maryland, call 800-492-0618(inside Maryland) or mail 211Md.org.

• For information 2-1-1 in Virginia, call 800-230-6977 or e-mail 211info@councilofcommunityservices.org.