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Family Matters

Dial 2-1-1 WHen You Don’t Know Where to Turn

July 1st, 2016

Submitted by Some Other Solutions Society for Crisis Prevention (SOS) and 211 Wood Buffalo

If you have never had to reach out and ask for help or support, it can be overwhelming. In fact for many people, asking for help is so uncomfortable and difficult that they will experience prolonged hardship before seeking assistance, this is often the case in community disasters.  Not knowing who to call or where to turn is another reason that people do not reach out. Fortunately in Fort McMurray there is an easy to remember number that can connect community members to the information, resources and referrals that they need.  211 has been operating in Calgary and Edmonton since 2004, and 211 Wood Buffalo launched in 2014.  211 Wood Buffalo is funded by the United Way  Fort McMurray, and operates through Some Other Solutions Society for Crisis Prevention (SOS).

211 has been a primary resource for many Fort McMurray evacuees, in fact, Calgary 211 stated that more than 35% of their calls in May were related to the Fort McMurray fires and Fort McMurray residents needing to access information about housing, financial supports, welcome centres, access to food and clothing, just to name a few of the many questions.  

With a quickly approaching optional re-entry date and plan for residents to return to the community, having access to information and resources has never been more important.  Community residents are encouraged to make 211 their primary contact for information and referrals.  211 updates their information and resource lists daily so callers receive accurate and timely information.   It is also recommended that Fort McMurray residents follow 211WB (211 Wood Buffalo) Facebook and Twitter posts for important updates, notices and helpful information.

Returning home will be extremely difficult, and for many, it will be traumatic.  It is important for community members to know the SOS 24 hour crisis line:  780-743-HELP (4357) and dialing 2-1-1.  In times of stress it is often very difficult for people to reach out for help, and in many cases, not knowing who or where to call prevents people from getting access to information and referrals.  211 can help people feel empowered, reduces stress, and saves them from calling the wrong agency or getting bounced around business telephone directories.  By calling 2-1-1 callers speak directly to an Information and Referral Specialist who then gets the caller to connected to the right resource to help.

Knowing the signs of disaster related stress is extremely important, and knowing where to get help is equally as important. FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) provides a list of what to watch for.  Here are a few of the disaster stress symptoms:

  • Difficulty communicating thoughts or limited attention span.
  • Difficulty sleeping.
  • Low threshold of frustration.
  • Increased use of drugs/alcohol.
  • Physical symptoms such as headaches/stomach problems, colds or flu-like symptoms.
  • Disorientation or confusion and difficulty concentrating.
  • Reluctance to leave home.
  • Depression, sadness, feelings of hopelessness.
  • Mood-swings and easy bouts of crying.
  • Overwhelming guilt and self-doubt.

Connecting people to resources can reduce stress, build resilience, and avert other crisis situations.  

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