Why Would You Dial 211, 311, 511, 611, 711 or 811?

Sticking with the telecommunications theme, I noticed a little blurb on the aforementioned 10-digit dialing flyer:

Vancouver, 7-Aug-08

Wow, I thought to myself, I have no idea what six out of the eight n11 numbers are for. How curious. Here’s what I could come up with. These apply to landlines only, as far as I can figure. Cell phones may treat these access codes differently. I’m not near a landline at the moment, or I’d call them myself.

  • 211 – Provides “free, confidential, multilingual access to information about the full range of community, social, health and government services.”
  • 311 – It’s “a single phone number for non-emergency municipal services and information, and will be available 24 hours a day, seven days a week in multiple languages.” Is it the same for every BC community, or just Vancouver?
  • 511 – Apparently it’s supposed to be a national weather hotline, but, as of March, 2008, it’s been put on hold.
  • 611 – This gets you customer service on a cell phone. I’m not sure what it does on a landline.
  • 711 – A national telephone relay service (I couldn’t find a better link in my brief search) for the hearing-impaired.
  • 811 – I couldn’t figure out what this was for in BC. In the Yukon, you can dial it to get health advice from BC nurses.

If anybody wants to call these numbers or tell me any fun n11 stories, fire away.


  1. Here in Utah, the 511 number is our traffic hotline, and like yours, the 211 goes to social services. The 311 here goes to local governmental / municipal services. 811 actually goes to the local “blue stakes” or “Call before you dig” line for utilities.

  2. I remember being told that having ‘911’ in a phone number in any place will cause the phone to ignore the rest of the number and dial 911. This was told to me by a friend when he was going to prank some girl he’d rather not give his phone number to, so he gave her something like “604-555-4911” so that they’d end up dialing 911. I haven’t tried it myself ( either dialing a number with 911 in it, or handing out such a number* ), so I’m kind of curious if it works or not.

    *Not that I’ve ever been asked for my phone number.

  3. Sean, that’s not true in the States at least. My sister’s number ends in “911”, and I’ve never dialed 911 accidentally when calling her, so I’m pretty sure that 911 has to be the first three digits.

    So if you gave someone a number that had the area code or prefix as “911” that might work, for instance, 911-333-0555 or 911-0555.

    1. Actually I was talking to my parents by phone (their number is X91-1XXX, I’m leaving out the other digits so no one will bother them), and emergency services showed up at my door. I told them we had no emergency and we didn’t call them. They were very angry and told me I could get in trouble with the law. I was still on the phone with my parents; they drilled me as to how long I had been talking to them. Apparently they realized I was talking to them the whole time they were alerted to come to my house, so they left us alone.

      It only occurred to me later, that I had to dial my parents more than once; apparently the first digit (X) was dialed too quickly for the service to pick up, the next 3 digits were 911, then I dialed the rest XXX and couldn’t get through. I redialed but, meanwhile the 911 probably went through as someone trying to dial emergency and not able to talk or stay on the line – which requires a response.

      I was much more careful dialing my parents after that!

  4. In Ontario, 611 is the number for phone repairs on landlines. I remember calling 611 from a payphone to try and get my landline repaired.

  5. 711 connects you to the TTY-to-voice end of whatever relay service applies to the place you’re in. There is no “national” relay service in Canada (nor in the U.S., save for federal-government calls). 511 was supposed to be a voice-to-TTY alias, but that hasn’t really happened. You have to look up an 800 number to get the voice-to-TTY end of a relay service (or other combinations that might be available).

  6. Eh, “Pétoche” (http://www.koztoujours.fr), c’est drôlement chouette de sympa de garder le MESSAGE que je dois faire passer à cette GROSSE TACHE qui vit, là-haut, sous les combles, LE MANIAQUE DE L’ÉLECTRICITÉ, qui aboie quand on lui parle et se tient toujours au garde à vous prêt à obéir, le MESSAGE étant : ” ELLE… A DIT : “CALTEZ, VOLAILLES !” .
    Merci pour ce fabuleux espace démocratique du chien (premier couplet)

  7. In the states, it depends on where you are. If your in a house or a university. Most of those numbers on a UNI would call specific departments such as 211 and 911 would call security as would 5000 (typically) 9999 is usually the switch room, 2222 is typically the telecom dept, other bunches of fun crap like that.

  8. You know what I forgot to post? In the past, 511 in the Arkasas River Valley of Pope/Yell Counties, AR would net you a computerized voice of your phone number. It was the method used by GTE (now Centurytel) to give installers confirmation of a phone number connected to a line.
    As far as 911 goes, there was one Pennsylvania community which still had that connected to the local phone company. To my understanding, that’s been discontinued or moved elsewhere. 611 would be the ideal home for it.

  9. 811 is the number you’d dial in case you are planning on digging at a certain area and need information on whether it is safe to do so. By dialing 811, they would want the exact location and purpose of the dig and they would dispatch someone at the location and make an assessment.

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