Making Sense of X11 Numbers

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Photo by Tracy Le Blanc on

Recently, a friend told me she had called 311 when she was lost to ask directions and complained that they had been rude. While I was pretty sure that wasn’t a normal request for that agency –which may explain their reaction, however inappropriate; I realized that I was a little fuzzy about what some of the other X11 numbers were used for.  So I got into my internet spaceship in hopes of discovering new X11 worlds.

The X11 series of numbers are a useful group of quick call numbers which were developed as part of the the North American Numbering Plan (everything you ever wanted to know about telephone numbering) but were afraid or too bored to ask. The X11 series of numbers would solve lots of problems for ordinary humans like me, if only I could remember which one I need to call.

111– In the United States, this is usually seen on a cellphone bill in the summary of calls or messages.  Cell companies use it to describe a call or text generated online and sent to a phone, for example by Yahoo messenger. However, if you are visiting New Zealand on your Hobbit quest and get attacked by Orcs or other fiendish creatures, 111 is the go-to number for emergency assistance. But, in the United Kingdom, if you look the wrong way when crossing the street and get banged up by a lorry, call 999 if you need an ambulance or medivac right away, and 111 for urgent care type services.  Confused?  You aren’t alone.  Confusion over 111 in UK.

Fortunately, most of the subsequent numbers in the series are less complicated.
211 – This would be a great tool if anyone knew it existed.  The Alliance of Information and Referral Systems and United Way have made a one stop portal so that a person in need no longer needs to drown in a black hole of agencies, forms, and procedures to get help.  Instead, a person who needs help with food, housing, employment, health care, or counseling can call 211 and a 211 operator will connect them with the help they need.  I have not tested this, and hope I never need to, but I certainly have friends who could have used this service in the past.  So pass the word.  Use 211 for help with United Way type services.

311 –  In addition to being a rock band that has just released a new album, 311 is used across the country by city and police administration for non-emergency calls.  In Albuquerque, where I live, the 311 website, phone app, and call center handle a dizzying array of issues.  The Albuquerque 311 site handles questions ranging from trash and recycling, to pets and wildlife, and has links to health, safety and social services. With the phone app, I can take a picture of graffiti, a yard overgrown with weeks, or another health issue, and report it immediately.

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Call 311 for graffiti and other problems.  Photo by Pixabay on

The 311 center staff email me when the problem has been resolved so I can confirm that it has been taken care of.  I can also check the website for local events, library openings/locations, bus schedules, road construction, and myriad other useful things.  While I can also commend a police officer for excellent service to the community via the website; sadly, the link to  report police misconduct has probably gotten more use in Albuquerque lately, what with a series of shootings by police of mentally ill citizens.

411 – This is your phone book when you misplace your phone book; a local directory assistance number for people, and businesses.  Long distance directory assistance still usually uses 1-area code-555-1212, but the 411 website doesn’t restrict your searches to the local area.  However, while it was able to find my husband’s address and age, it didn’t find his phone — a cell phone.  The same was true for my record, so if you want to call my house, you’d better already have our phone numbers or be prepared to use some of the more invasive programs to track someone down. Even in that case, don’t expect perfection. I tried and it had me still associated with my ex-husband rather than my second husband of 22 years.

511 – Are you stuck in traffic, want to report a horrendous accident that is blocking all the lanes of the freeway, or want to know what road conditions are on your route? 511 is your friend although it is still not completely implemented in some areas.  NM 511 road conditions is the website for New Mexico’s travel information, but calling 511 from any location should get you routed to the appropriate transportation network for your location.

611 – If you are a cell phone user, this number for customer service is probably already loaded in your speed dial.

711 – This wonderful number connects the hearing impaired with hearing listeners.  The person with a hearing or speech disability uses the telephone system via a text telephone (TTY) or other device.  For more information.

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Photo by Pixabay on

811 – The national “Call Before You Dig” number helps ensure that you aren’t going to excavate a gas line or other utility when planting that pretty tree in your backyard.  So, call before you dig, won’t you!

911 – For real emergencies only.  This number can be the difference between life and death.  One of my friends is a 911 dispatcher and I’ve truly come to appreciate how challenging and stressful her life can be, and how critical her work is to the community.  For all you emergency dispatchers, everywhere, I admire you, appreciate you, and hope I never have to call you!