On Saturday, October 28th, Mayor Nutter declared a state of emergency in Philadelphia from Sunday afternoon through Tuesday. For most Philadelphians, this state of emergency meant the possibility of flooding, of fallen branches and hard rain. This state of emergency meant the possibility of property damage, mass evacuations and, above all else, a break from work.
Not for the employees of Philly311.
On Sunday, October 28th, Philadelphia’s Managing Director Richard Negrin and Philly311 Director Rosetta Carrington Lue led the Philly311 team of call agents and support staff into a 24-hour emergency mode. Agents that could find childcare or support from their families would be on duty throughout the state of emergency. They would have their choice between a 12 and 16-hour shift, getting a five to six hour break in between. The 60-some member staff shared facilities near City Hall. The staff occupied these rooms in shifts, taking showers and resting for a few hours before heading back to their next half-a-day stint fielding the publics’ questions.
“My son really missed me,” one agent said. “I was away from home between 9pm on Sunday and 7pm on Tuesday. We were really well prepared, though, so it went smoothly.”
Mayor Nutter urged residents to call Philly311 for any non-emergency related question. The public listened. On Saturday, October 27th, Philly311 received 1,639 calls in lieu of the impending storm. Most of the callers relayed concerns of shelter options, school closings, trash pick-up and mail delivery. On Sunday, after the state of emergency was declared, Philly311’s call toll ran up to 6,207.
Rosetta Carrington Lue and Philly311 Operations Manager, Sheryl Johnson, did everything they could to support the staff during the trying time. If you were an agent who couldn’t find transportation, one of the team’s designated drivers would pick you up. If you made it into the call center, you would have smelled pizzas and Subway sandwiches. You would have seen Wal-Mart bags full of snacks. You would have been part of a worn, but cohesive team fighting to help the city.
And fight they did. On Monday, October 29th the Philly311 Call Center more than doubled its totals from the previous day receiving 13,212 calls from Philadelphia residents. Hurricane Sandy had struck and the concerns now centered around power outages, flooding, and road conditions. On Tuesday, the well-worked call center received over 18,000 phone calls, resulting in 39,776 calls between Saturday and Tuesday.
The Philly311 Mobile App posted impressive statistics as well. As the storm approached, the App’s the storm, The App had reached 8,817 downloads, more than doubling its total number of downloads before the storm. The Philly311 App was the 33rd most downloaded item in the entire App Store on Monday, October 29th.
And as Sandy left, the Philly311 team went home for a much deserved rest. It cannot be said, however, that their work wasn’t appreciated. Philadelphia Police Commissioner, Charles Ramsey said in a press conference following the storm, “People basically did utilize 311 and we really do appreciate that.” At the same press conference, Mayor Nutter said, “The  system has done an outstanding job this entire weekend through the first of the week and will continue to do so.”
But how did the public feel? It’s safe to say that Twitter approved. In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, Philly311 received a gracious amount of compliments on the social network. @Cella65 said, “TY [Thank you] to @Michael_Nutter, @RichNegrin @philly311 and all the other public servants working to keep us safe. This is what govt. does.” @Morganzalot said, “Props to @Philly311 for spotting my tweet about a clogged drain in S. Philly and responding pretty quickly via Twitter. #SandyInPhilly” And finally, @Bethhcaine tweeted, “So impressed with the leadership efforts of the Philadelphia response team. Thank you so much @Michael_Nutter @RichNegrin @philly311 & all.” It seems as if the city appreciated a job well done.