Anchorage residents now have a one-stop number to call for non-emergency situations in the city, meant to consolidate a variety of service numbers and alleviate pressure on 911 dispatchers.

The number 311 is now available to reach a number of municipal offices, according to Mayor Ethan Berkowitz’s office, including the Anchorage Police Department’s non-emergency line. A call Wednesday afternoon brought up an automated phone tree allowing non-emergency access to APD, as well as nine other local government agencies.

Although the Anchorage Fire Department isn’t specifically listed in the options, APD spokesman MJ Thim said police dispatchers can route 311 fire and medical calls to AFD. The two departments’ dispatch centers are scheduled to be combined into one facility under an ongoing upgrade project.

People should still call 911 for emergencies, Thim said, including violent crimes and situations where people’s lives are in danger.

“Anything life-threatening – if you see anything suspicious, anything that’s criminal activity – you need to call 911, but if you see any situations that are not life-threatening, you need to call 311,” Thim said. “If you come out in the morning and your car’s been stolen, that’s not an emergency – if you’ve been carjacked, that’s an emergency.”

Thim emphasized that police will still take reports and respond to non-emergency situations. He said dispatchers have been overwhelmed, however, by calls during incidents like Thursday’s Glenn Highway traffic jams due to work on a damaged overpass.

“We had people who were flooding the 911 lines that were stuck in traffic and just complaining – and while we understand the frustration, that’s not an emergency call,” Thim said. “For keeping lines open in an emergency, this 311 system will really make it easier to keep those lines open and let people know who to call.”

Departments and offices reachable in the 311 line include:

Street Maintenance
Fees and Taxes
Vehicle Impound
Code Enforcement
Health and Human Services
Transit Department
Traffic Department
Municipal Clerk
Mayor’s Office

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