Inform USA Standards

First published in 1973 and now in its 9th edition (AIRS Standards 9.0 Edition, officially released in July 2020), the AIRS Standards underpin and bind together every aspect of information and referral and define the direction of all the products and services provided by AIRS. The Standards are the foundation of service delivery and the prime quality benchmark for community navigation. 

There are 27 Standards covering every facet of an information and referral operation.  It is updated every three years to reflect the industry's emerging trends. 

They are broken out into five sections, and within each Standard are Quality Indicators.


I&R service delivery optimizes access for all. The I&R service recognizes the inquirer’s right to accurate, comprehensive, and unbiased information provided in a confidential and/or anonymous, nonjudgmental manner; and is a non-partisan, non-ideological, and impartial information source for available nonprofit, government, and for-profit services that meet the I&R service’s inclusion/exclusion criteria.  Service is provided by trained community resource specialists and is delivered in a variety of ways that support the mission of the I&R program, the accessibility requirements of the community, and the communication preferences of inquirers (for example, a combination of telephone, in-person, email, instant messaging (IM), text/SMS messaging, online chat, video relay service, social media and other methods of communication). Although the channel of service delivery may affect the nature of the interaction with inquirers, the essential elements of the I&R process remain the same. 

The I&R service establishes and maintains rapport, conducts an assessment in which the inquirer has one-to-one interaction with a community resource specialist and provides appropriate information and referrals. The I&R process consists of active listening and effective questioning to determine the needs of the inquirer, clarifying those needs, providing requested information and/or identifying appropriate resources, making referrals to organizations capable of meeting those needs, and providing enough information about each organization (e.g., describing how intake works and required documentation) to help inquirers make an informed choice. In situations where services are unavailable, the I&R service engages in problem solving to help the inquirer identify alternative strategies and manage expectations.

Quality Indicators

1. The I&R service ensures through training, monitoring, and coaching that community resource specialists:  

    • Identify themselves and their program according to agency guidelines.

    • Establish rapport with the inquirer and use active listening skills and empathy to discern the presenting problem.

    • Respond to each inquirer in a professional, nonjudgmental, culturally appropriate and timely manner.

    • Apply person-centered techniques and approaches that identify the inquirer’s strengths, needs, preferences, goals and values, and support the inquirer’s own choices.  

    • Use clear language and an appropriate tone of voice and inflection to convey empathy and engagement with the inquirer’s situation.

    • Make an accurate assessment of the inquirer’s problems and needs asking relevant questions to obtain the information necessary for an accurate referral.

    • Identify underlying or unstated problems, when appropriate.

    • Determine any specific needs or preferences to access services (e.g. language needs, evening or weekend hours, proximity to public transportation, or disability access).

    • Clarify and confirm the inquirer’s need(s) using techniques such as paraphrasing before offering referrals.

    • Provide the inquirer with various approaches to their situation that give them a range of options, as appropriate.

    • Explore the inquirer’s own resources (e.g., friends, family, faith-based organizations).

    • Effectively use the I&R’s resource information system to identify resources to meet the inquirer’s needs.

    • Where possible and practical, provide at least three referrals to give the inquirer a choice (and to protect the I&R service from being perceived as making a ‘recommendation’) while being careful not to overwhelm the inquirer with too many options;

    • Suggest ways the inquirer can advocate for him or herself, when appropriate (empowerment).

    • If demographic information is being collected that is not directly relevant to the assessment, e.g., if required by contract or to enhance community reports, provide an explanation to the inquirer about why the information is needed and collect such data at the end of the call. (Note that it will sometimes be required to differentiate between the inquirer and the person-in-need). The primary goal of data collection is to gather enough information about inquirers to help them address and/or resolve their problems. 

    • Encourage inquirers to contact the I&R service again if needs were unmet or for future needs; and

    • Accurately record what occurred during the course of the inquiry (for example, assessment and referral, assistance without referral, information only, crisis intervention, advocacy) as well as the problems and needs that were addressed for use in reports. 

2. The I&R service provides barrier-free access to its services for individuals and groups who have special needs, e.g., access via applicable technology and/or communication methods for people with hearing or speech impairments; language access for inquirers who speak languages other than English; and access for people with disabilities.

3. The I&R service ensures, through appropriate queue management techniques such as schedule adherence, that an appropriate number of community resource specialists are scheduled to meet the needs of callers, i.e., that the optimum number of staff are available at the times most inquiries occur.

4. All I&Rs should offer some extended hours in consideration of inquirers who need service outside of Monday-to-Friday 9am to 5pm. The preferred option is for the I&R service to provide access to information and referral 24 hours a day, year-round. 

    • Access to information and referral can be provided through a variety of channels - the preference being for a staff person to answer calls (i.e. live answer).

    • However, if this is not possible, the I&R service identifies alternative delivery options in collaboration with other I&Rs and/or human services providers.

5. I&R services that use after-hours or overflow coverage provided by another organization have a formal, written agreement with that organization to ensure that the organization meets all AIRS Service Delivery and Resource Database standards and quality indicators.  

6. The organization develops overall quality and productivity goals for I&R service delivery to ensure a high-quality experience for inquirers through effective information, assessment, referral and follow up. 

7. When providing multi-channel services, specialists divide their attention, as appropriate to the situation, without compromising customer service. Community resource specialists balance the inquirer’s needs with the overall productivity goals of the organization regardless of the channel through which the inquirer contacted the I&R service. 

8. The I&R service makes every effort to ensure that its service is accessible from all communications devices and channels (e.g. telephone, email, instant messaging (IM), text/SMS messaging, online chat, video relay service, social media or other alternative access methods) within its coverage area.

9. The I&R service has defined timeliness and service metrics for all service delivery access channels (e.g. in-person, telephone, email, instant messaging (IM), text/SMS messaging, online chat, video relay service, social media or other alternative access methods).  

10. The I&R service provides its service at no cost to the inquirer (e.g. toll-free access is provided to people living within the area served by the I&R). Inquirers are responsible for cell phone minutes, landline fees, pay phone charges and text charges. 

11. The I&R service has implemented policies to ensure the privacy, confidentiality and security of personal inquirer information; and has agreement forms that staff, visitors and others with access to confidential information sign to document their compliance. Identifying information about inquirers, their requests and the information given to them is not communicated to others unless either:

    • Release of information is required by law or court order. 

    • Careful consideration indicates the presence or risk of serious harm to the inquirer or another person, and then communication may be only to those who must be informed in order to reduce harm or risk.

    • The inquirer has given explicit permission for the information to be disclosed to another person or agency. The inquirer specifies what information may be given and to whom. This applies to individual advocacy situations as well as those involving shared case coordination.

12. The I&R service has procedures for managing challenging inquirers that recognize the right of inquirers to access, respect, privacy, confidentiality and treatment that is professional, nonjudgmental and culturally appropriate while protecting the I&R service from an unreasonable level of offensive behavior. The procedures define inquirer behaviors that are potentially offensive; describe acceptable options for managing contacts that are disruptive; and mandate a review on a regular basis of actions taken regarding specific individuals to determine if a change is required. The procedures also address staff security issues, particularly in face-to-face settings.

13. The I&R service may engage in more detailed eligibility assessments and/or determination as an enhancement to the initial I&R transaction such as prompting inquirers regarding their interest in additional resources, conducting initial case coordination, application assistance, and appointment setting. These enhancements are clear in terms of their scope and expectations.

14. The I&R service has a process to resolve complaints from inquirers and community service agencies, including those related to customer satisfaction, accuracy of referrals, and potential breaches of privacy and confidentiality.

The I&R service offers advocacy to ensure that people receive the benefits and services for which they are eligible, when necessary. Client advocacy seeks to meet individual needs without attempting to change social institutions and, for purposes of these standards, does not include system advocacy or legislative advocacy (lobbying). All advocacy efforts are consistent with written policies approved by the governing body of the I&R service and proceed only with the permission of the inquirer (i.e. informed consent).

Quality Indicators

  1. The I&R service has an advocacy policy describing the circumstances under which client advocacy should be undertaken, the authorized advocacy mechanisms, and the conditions under which supervisory staff need to become involved. 

  1. The I&R service intervenes, on behalf of individuals to help them obtain needed services, when necessary.  The I&R service makes one or more additional calls or takes other actions on the inquirer’s behalf to make sure inquirers get the information and/or help they need.

  1. The I&R service refers to an organization that specializes in providing advocacy in situations where the level of advocacy required by the inquirer is beyond the scope of the I&R’s services or the effective use of its resources.

  1. The I&R service ensures through training that community resource specialists document acts of advocacy and their outcomes. 

The I&R service is prepared to assess and meet the immediate short-term needs of inquirers who are experiencing a crisis and contact the I&R service for assistance. Included may be individuals at risk of suicide, homicide, or assault; families and friends who have experienced a suicide; victims of domestic abuse or other forms of violence; children or elder/dependent adults who are victims of abuse or neglect; sexual assault survivors; runaway youth; people experiencing a psychiatric emergency; people with a substance use disorder who are in crisis; survivors of a traumatic experience; victims of human trafficking; and others in distress.

Quality Indicators

  1. The I&R service has crisis intervention procedures that include protocols for specific types of emergencies. Included are safety risk assessment procedures, protective measures for individuals in endangerment situations, and protocols that address inquirers who wish to remain anonymous yet require direct intervention.

  1. The I&R service trains its community resource specialists to anticipate the possibility of a crisis contact occurring through any of the channels of communication it supports (e.g. calls with suicidal ideation or calls that begin with one issue and escalate to reveal a crisis).   

  1. The I&R service has protocols that determine when to access 911 or other emergency rescue services

  1. The I&R service either provides crisis intervention services or has a prearranged agreement and documented protocols with a crisis service that does.

  1. The I&R service ensures through training, monitoring, and coaching that community resource specialists have the skills to:

    • Recognize when the inquirer is experiencing a crisis.

    • Determine whether the individual is in immediate danger and take appropriate steps to ensure that the inquirer is safe before continuing with an assessment.

    • Recognize the warning signs of people at imminent risk of suicide, violence, or victimization (including signs of abuse/neglect, domestic violence, and risk of homicide or self-harm) whether the risk issues are explicitly stated or implicit.

    • Recognize when an inquirer is in immediate need of intervention (e.g., when a person is in medical crisis due to a substance use disorder, has taken steps to end her or his life, is a victim of recent violence, or is experiencing a psychiatric emergency).

    • De-escalate and stabilize the inquirer and help him/her remain calm.

    • Help inquirers talk about and work through their feelings as part of the assessment and problem-solving stages of the interaction.

    • When necessary, follow the organization’s rescue protocol for when to access 911 or other emergency personnel to request that they intervene.  In these circumstances, the individual’s safety overrides confidentiality concerns.

    • Keep the inquirer engaged during the contact pending referral or rescue.

  1. In cases of suspected child abuse or elder abuse, the I&R service has protocols that comply with prevailing legislation regarding mandatory reporting and completes a report when required.

  1. In situations involving suicide or homicide, the I&R service understands the circumstances under which a safety risk assessment is required and conducts an appropriate assessment when necessary.  Risk assessments are documented and include a description of specific actions taken in response to the situation. 

  1. In cases of domestic violence or other endangerment situations, the community resource specialist takes special precautions to safeguard the inquirer’s identity and all aspects of their interaction.

  1. The I&R service uses a variety of means to support its ability to connect with 911 or other emergency rescue services including Caller ID, a call tracing arrangement with the telephone company, or the identification of an IP address.  At a minimum, there is a separate external line that is available for initiating rescue procedures without interrupting the crisis call.  The community resource specialist follows the protocol for addressing inquirers who wish to remain anonymous yet require rescue.  

  1. The I&R service ensures that community resource specialists have annual crisis intervention professional development training to upgrade existing skills and learn new skills.  

  1. For inquirers in crises who are not at imminent risk, the community resource specialist assesses their immediate, short-term needs and connects them with a crisis intervention service for ongoing assistance. The connection is made by warm transfer, when possible, and the community resource specialist follows the protocol established by agreement with the crisis service.   

  1. The I&R service has a protocol for debriefing community resource specialists following a crisis interaction, as needed.

  1. The I&R service ensures through training that community resource specialists document crisis intervention contacts and their outcomes.  

The primary purpose of follow-up is to contact inquirers to find out if their needs were met and if not, why. The I&R service has a policy that addresses the conditions under which follow-up is conducted. The policy requires follow-up with inquirers who are at risk and/or vulnerable and in situations where the specialist believes that inquirers do not have the necessary capacity to take the needed actions to resolve their situation. Additional assistance in locating or accessing services may be necessary. 


Quality Indicators


  1. Follow-up generally occurs within 3-7 days of the original contact, although in situations of endangerment, it may take place within hours.


  1. Follow-up is only conducted with the permission of the inquirer and never compromises the inquirer's safety.


  1. The follow-up policy describes examples of situations in which an individual’s safety or well-being might be at risk and follow-up by a community resource specialist or other designated individual is required.  


  1. During follow-up, if it is determined that the inquirer has not received services or the need has not been met, the I&R service makes additional appropriate referrals or engages in enhanced problem-solving. The I&R service also determines whether the inquirer has additional, new needs and makes appropriate referrals before completing the contact.


  1. The I&R service documents the follow-up results (whether service was received or there remains an unmet need and the nature of that unmet need) for use in reports and/or systems advocacy.


  1. Information gathered during follow-up relating to the accuracy or availability of information in the resource database is submitted to resource database curators for verification and correction.


  1. Information gathered during the follow-up process is also used as a further means of evaluating the effectiveness of the service delivery system and identifying gaps in community services.


  1. The I&R service uses multiple channels of access for follow-up (e.g., texting, email, chat) according to the preference of the inquirer and the efficiency of the process.  

The I&R service provides community resource information in a variety of ways to facilitate independent access for the general public and other human services professionals. These options provide additional choices for inquirers and complement the alternative of one-to-one interaction with a community resource specialist.  


Quality Indicators


  1. The I&R service offers multiple options for the public by making all or the majority of its resource database available on the Internet at no cost.


The elements that increase the effectiveness of a publicly accessible resource database include:


    • An easy-to-remember URL.

    • A prominently displayed search button.

    • A search page that is clean, well-organized, and easy to navigate (i.e. which minimizes the instances of ‘false hits’.)

    • A prominently displayed guided search with pictures or graphic icons representing service concepts or similar strategies that promote ‘hot topics’ lists and other embedded ‘user-friendly’ search strategies expressed in natural language.


    • A keyword search window that employs search logic that produces an inclusive search results list.

    • Keyword Taxonomy searches include partial and full-word matching.  The entered text must appear at the beginning of words for the term to be retrieved. For example, a search on ‘aging’ would ignore words like ‘managing’).

    • The ability to search agencies, sites, programs, and AKA names. 

    • The ability to filter by geographic location/area served.

    • Display location and proximity maps of available resources.

    • Cleanly-designed search results that include the data elements that are most helpful in providing the details inquirers need to make informed choices about their options.

    • Recognized best practices for accessibility for persons with disabilities (such as JAWS readers, font sizes, Section 508 Standards, etc.).

  1. The I&R service explores additional features to enhance the experience and options available to users, including:  


    • Making its information about community resources available through focus pages on its website, online information portals, and other similar gateways.

    • Compiling and distributing directories of services in print or electronic format.

    • Using social media and other communication tools to inform the public about significant changes to key services and important access issues.

    • Providing menu-driven IVR recorded voice information about key information.

    • Offering subscriptions to community resource information via SMS/text.


  1. The I&R service ensures that the display of its online search module and the retrieval of resource database records is mobile-friendly


  1. The I&R service uses APIs and other mechanisms that provide opportunities to move up-to-date resource database information into other systems to increase access and collaborative ventures.


  1. Meta-tagging and other techniques are incorporated to ensure search-engine optimization (SEO) that allows the I&R’s resource database to appear as a prominent option for Google and other online search systems.


  1. When the I&R service provides mechanisms for independent access, it includes information about how to connect with a community resource specialist if consultation and guidance are required (for example, the ability to press “0” at any time when listening to a recorded message or to engage in text or online chat when searching for resources on the website). 


  1. The principles of confidentiality remain applicable in cases involving independent access. In situations where online information can be gathered, information about individual activities is only made available in aggregate form. Privacy policies are displayed and cover a variety of topics including privacy and security, copyright and intellectual property rights, and access. 

The delivery of I&R service generates valuable information about the problems/needs of a community and the availability of resources to meet those needs. The I&R service collects, analyzes, and reports insightful data concerning inquirers and their needs in ways that are useful to themselves and their community partners. The I&R service establishes and uses a secure, confidential system for collecting and organizing inquirer data collection that provides a basis for describing requests for services and unmet needs, identifying service gaps, and informing decisions about the scope of the resource database. Inquirer data includes information gathered during the original contact, follow-up, and customer satisfaction/quality assurance calls. 


Quality Indicators


  1. Data collected for I&R service analysis and reporting purposes are based on I&R agency policies and objectives, together with local, state, and/or national/federal requirements.  


  1. Inquirer data is always made available in aggregate form to protect the confidentiality of individual inquirers.


  1. The I&R service maintains documentation on all inquiries, has a defined set of inquirer data elements that are used for reporting purposes, and recognizes that inquirers have the right to withhold information.


  1. The data collected provides enough information about inquirer needs, whether gathered through the original contact, during follow-up, or via customer satisfaction survey/quality assurance surveys, to identify:  


    • Referral patterns include information on aggregate problems/needs. 

    • Service requests for specific programs and organizations.

    • Met and unmet needs.

    • Trends in community service provision and/or gaps in service.

    • Inquirer demographic data and demographic profiles.


  1. The I&R service may use data collection and analysis strategies that employ sampling techniques.  The sample size should also reflect the confidence level in the data presented. The chart below illustrates a range of appropriate sample sizes with such random samples gathered on a quarterly or monthly basis. 


Call Center Annual Call Volume

Required completed samples with a 95% confidence level and a 5% margin of error. 

Required completed samples with a 95% confidence level and a 3% margin of error. 



















  1. The I&R service’s inquirer data collection and reporting activities facilitate the analysis needed to inform:


    • The human service needs of inquirers.

    • Outreach to diverse communities. 

    • Community needs assessment.

    • Community planning.

    • Allocation of funding.

    • System advocacy.


  1. Data collected for reporting purposes may include:

    • Total number of incoming contacts/inquiries by phone (incoming calls) answered by community resource specialists. These can be transaction calls (calls in which problems are addressed and for each problem, the type of service provided by the specialist such as information only, assessment and referral, assessment without referral, advocacy, crisis intervention, unmet needs); or non-transaction calls (calls answered by the specialist that are hang-ups, wrong numbers, incoming administrative or personal calls or other situations where there is no productive conversation between the specialist and the inquirer, and no assistance provided).


    • A total number of I&R contacts/inquiries from calls and other sources (generally recorded in the I&R software) in which inquirer problems or needs are addressed. Included are:


      • Transaction calls.

      • Outgoing calls.

      • Face-to-face contacts (walk-ins or I&R interactions in other settings such as community facilities).

      • Email contacts.

      • Social media interactions.

      • Voicemail contact responses.

      • Online chat contacts.  

      • Video relay contacts.

      • Regular mail contacts.


    • The total number and types of problems/needs presented by inquirers. 


    • Geographic and demographic profiles of inquirers. 


    • The programs that received referrals.

  1. The I&R service may also collect information about ancillary I&R activities, in addition to I&R inquiries, however, that data should not be added to the overall contact/inquiry total without clear context. Included are:


    • Website visitor activity (e.g., total visits, unique visitors, individual page visits, searches conducted).

    • People accessing recorded information.

    • Social media postings.

    • Outreach presentations.

    • Brochures and/or other publications distributed.

    • Outbound advocacy calls.

    • Outbound customer satisfaction/quality assurance calls.

    • Outbound follow-up calls. 

    • Outbound calls to verify resource information.

    • Community problems/needs reporting. 

  1. The reports generated by the I&R service include the following:


    • Total number of inquiries.

    • A total number of individuals served.

    • Total number and types of problems/needs.

    • The number and/or percentage of inquiries by call type (dispositions) such as:

      • Information only.

      • Assessment and referral.

      • Assessment without a referral.

      • Crisis intervention.

      • Advocacy.

    • Inquiries are recorded as:

      • Met needs; or

      • Unmet needs.  A pattern of individual unmet needs may lead to the identification of service gaps at the service delivery system level.

    • The organizations and programs to which referrals were made.

    • Follow-up results.

    • Trends in community service provision/gaps in service.

    • Geographic and other demographic information about inquirers in aggregate form (i.e., who people are and where they are calling from).

    • Cross tabulations of types of problems/needs by geographic location and/or geographic location and the problems/needs within them.


  1. The I&R service may also report on key performance indicators derived from its quality assurance and related activities, such as:


    • Average times of transactions.

    • Results of internal and independent call monitoring processes.

    • Average answering times.

    • Unmet demand (such as abandoned calls).

    • Complaints and commendations.

    • Case stories that illustrate composite examples of situations and outcomes secured by the I&R service. 


I&R services develop, maintain, use, and disseminate accurate, up-to-date resource databases that contain information about available community resources including details about services provided and the conditions under which they are available. The resource database supports the inquirer’s right to accurate, consistent, comprehensive, and unbiased information and the ability of the I&R service to be a non-partisan, non-ideological, and impartial information source for available nonprofit, government, and for-profit services that meet the organization’s inclusion/exclusion criteria. The resource database is used internally by community resource specialists to identify resources for inquirers and is maintained by resource database curators. Resource data is also available externally to other human services organizations and the public via an online database that is structured to make searching as intuitive and user-friendly as possible. 

The I&R service develops criteria for the inclusion or exclusion of human services agencies and programs in the resource database. The criteria address the human services needs of all groups in the community served by the I&R service, may include government, nonprofit, and relevant for-profit organizations as well as entities such as support groups that may not be incorporated, and are uniformly applied and publicly available so that all users are aware of the scope and limitations of the database.

Quality Indicators

  1. The I&R service documents the inclusion/exclusion criteria for the contents of the resource database. The criteria address the human services needs of all groups in the community served by the I&R service; and the available resources which may include government, nonprofit and relevant for-profit organizations as well as entities such as support groups that may not be incorporated.  

  1. The criteria are consistent with and support the ability of the I&R service to maintain the resource database by the quality requirements of the AIRS Standards.

  1. The document may assign priority ratings to specific types of services that are the most crucial to the mission of the I&R service and/or the focus of the most referrals. This enables the I&R service to focus the database updating process in terms of importance, especially in areas where resources are limited. 

  1. If the I&R service includes political cause and issue-oriented action groups in its resource database, the criteria strive for balance.

  1. The I&R service does not charge a fee for the inclusion of any organization in its public resource database.  

  1. The inclusion/exclusion criteria include an appeal process for organizations seeking clarification on either the document itself or the application of the criteria.  

  1. The inclusion/exclusion criteria are approved by the board/governing/ or advisory body of the I&R service. 

  1. The organization’s inclusion/exclusion criteria are reviewed and updated, at a minimum, every three years to ensure that they continue to meet the changing needs of the community.  The review process combines an internal and external focus and may include activities such as:

    • Assessing unmet needs.

    • Analyzing referrals made to organizations.

    • Discussions with community resource specialists.

    • Examination of demographic trends in the community.

    • Feedback from key stakeholders such as local funding bodies.

    • Engagement with human services agencies (e.g., by attending meetings of organizations representing different service sectors).

The resource database contains data elements that provide information about organizations that meet the criteria for inclusion, the services provided by each organization, and the locations where those services are available. Each resource database record has a resource profile that contains all mandatory data elements, where applicable (e.g., a mailing address is included only if one exists). However, the specific data elements that are seen by a particular group of users (e.g., resource database curators, community resource specialists, and the general public) may vary.  Note that ‘data elements’ are not intended to be equivalent to ‘fields’ within the context of software structure. Multiple data elements may be handled within a single field depending on the design of the software. Together, these form the data structure.

Quality Indicators

  1. Mandatory and Recommended Data Elements:  The chart below lists the data elements for the Agency portion of an organizational record, Site data elements, where additional sites exist, and Services/Programs provided by the organization. The Mandatory or Recommended status of each data element is also indicated.  Note that ‘Mandatory’ means that a data element must be entered if that information is available (e.g., if you need to provide documentation to apply for a service, then that information must be added. If no documentation is required, the field can be left empty). In the chart below, ‘X’ is a designation for ‘non-applicable.’ 

AIRS Data Elements


AIRS Data Record Category








AKA (Also Known As) Names




Legal Status




Federal Employer Identification Number (EIN/FEIN)




Licenses or Accreditation




Street/Physical Address(es)




Mailing Address(es)




Phone Number(s) and Types




Website URL(s) including Social Media




Email Address(es):  




Name and Title of Director/Manager








Days/Hours of Operation




Physical/Programmatic Access for People with Disabilities








Geographic Area Served




Languages Consistently Available




Documents Required




Application/Intake Process




Fees/Payment Options




Taxonomy Term(s) for Services/Targets




  1. Database Record Administration Data Elements:  Data elements that relate to the database record itself and are purely administrative are included in a separate table.  Most are automatically assigned by the system and are not displayed when records are published. The exception is the date of last annual verification which many I&Rs choose to display.  

AIRS Data Elements: Record Administration

Unique ID Number


Record Ownership Code


Date of Last Annual Verification


Date of Last Interim Change


Contact for Last Change


Resource Database Curator for Last Change


Record Status (Active/Inactive): 


Record Inclusion (e.g. displayed online, in specific portals, directories, etc.)


The AIRS data elements should match the schema used in the open-source Human Services Database Specification (HSDS) developed by Open Referral or the AIRS XSD Schema. These are the standard languages that best enable resource database interoperability. I&R services are strongly encouraged to use software that publishes and accepts data from these formats.  

The I&R service uses the 211 LA County Taxonomy of Human Services (Taxonomy) to index and facilitate retrieval of resource information, increase the reliability of planning data, make evaluation processes consistent and reliable, and facilitate state/provincial and national aggregations and comparisons of data. If additional classification or indexing structures are used, these must be connected to the Taxonomy rather than functioning as independent indexing systems.

Quality Indicators

  1. The I&R service has a current Taxonomy license. 

  1. The I&R service customizes the Taxonomy by identifying the terms that will remain active for use and deactivating those that will be unavailable for indexing and searching.  These customizations (for example, the authorization of terms) are made without changing the basic structure of the Taxonomy or the related service definitions. The customization of the Taxonomy is reviewed at least annually.  

  1. The structure and contents of the Taxonomy are constantly changing in response to changes in the services and target terms it encompasses. The I&R service has procedures in place to update and integrate Taxonomy additions and changes on a regular schedule according to their policies.

  2. The I&R service reviews and revises its Taxonomy customization following major updates and completely reviews/updates its version of the Taxonomy at least annually. 

  1. Requests for new terms, revised term definitions, new See Also References terms, and new Use References (including local ones if appropriate) are shared with the AIRS Networker’s Taxonomy Community where they will be discussed by other peer members, reviewed by the 211 LA County Taxonomy of Human Services editor and considered for inclusion in the master system.

  1. The I&R service uses software that supports the 211 LA County Taxonomy of Human Services and provides the basic functionality needed for the Taxonomy to meet the needs of community resource specialists and resource database curators including:

    • Incorporating the key elements of the field structure of a Taxonomy record (including definitions, use references, and see also references 

    • The ability to search and display Taxonomy records in a variety of ways

  1. The software incorporates the structure of a Taxonomy record and recommended structural elements to be used by community resource specialists and database curators. The table below indicates the recommendations: 

Taxonomy Term 

Structural Elements/



Recommended Use

Software Requirement

Use by Database Curators

Use by Community Resource Specialists

Taxonomy Term Name




Taxonomy Term Code




Taxonomy Term Definition




Taxonomy Term Date Changed




Taxonomy Term Use Reference




Taxonomy Term See Also Reference




Taxonomy Term External Classification Terms




Taxonomy Term Related Concepts (including codes)




Taxonomy Term Facet 

(service, target, organization/facility, modality/delivery format, etc.)




Designation of Customized Taxonomy System (approved/used/deactivated)



Yes, except deactivated terms, are not visible

Taxonomy Term and Use Reference name search 

(including partial word)




Hierarchical Taxonomy Term search




Ability to link/append Taxonomy Target Terms 




Ability to export, print and report with various options




Specific Designation of Taxonomy System permission/rights 




Taxonomy System change management process (incorporate XML version of Taxonomy System updates) 




Custom Categorization of Taxonomy Terms




Through training, database management procedures, and supervision, the I&R service ensures that resource database curators organize information about human services into database records that accurately and concisely reflect the agency, its locations, and its services/programs; index the services provided using the 211 LA County Taxonomy of Human Services by consistently applied practices; and assign other search methods or filters in a way that accurately reflects the conditions under which services are available.   

Quality Indicators 

  1. The I&R service uses software that supports the AIRS Resource Database standards.  

    • Information in the resource database is accessible in ways that support I&R service delivery.

    • The software module used by community resource specialists allows for search and retrieval by: 

      • Organization, site and program name, and related AKAs.

      • Type of services provided (using Taxonomy service terms including use references and see also references) with access to definitions.

      • The target population served, where applicable (using Taxonomy target terms) with access to definitions.

      • Area served.

    • It is possible to narrow service searches by geographic area served, proximity to the inquirer’s location, and other filters such as age, gender, or language availability.

  1. The I&R service ensures through training, coaching, and database audits that resource database curators understand:

    • The human service delivery system includes the sectors it comprises.

    • The differences between the public and private sectors.

    • How government, nonprofit and for-profit organizations are organized and funded.

    • The major types of service providers in their community.

    • The broad range of programs and services they provide.

    • How these organizations and the sectors they represent relate to one another and the people they serve. 

  1. The I&R service develops and uses a style guide that establishes rules for structuring information and writing narrative descriptions; and ensures that information within database records conforms to style guide rules and is clear, concise, consistent, relevant, and user-friendly.  The style guide includes:

    • Specific requirements for all data elements/data fields in use.

    • Consistent rules and phrasing for narrative data elements (e.g. organizational/program/AKA and other names, addresses, websites, and social media, telephone numbers, hours and days of operation, languages, age ranges, and other eligibility criteria, application/intake process, required documents, and fee structures). 

    • Respectful, person-first terminology and other preferred language conventions. 

  1. Resource database curators consistently follow the guidelines outlined in their style guide. They:

    • Structure organization entries into agency, site, and service components (or other components permitted by the software).

    • Designate agency, program, and site names as required.

    • Use and differentiate between program names and service group names.

    • Ensure that address information is entered consistently to facilitate geographic location searches.

  1. Resource database curators prepare well-written, concise narrative descriptions that reflect the format and writing style defined in the I&R service’s style guide. Narrative descriptions:

    • Encompass all relevant services provided by the organization.

    • Support Taxonomy (and other indexing) decisions, i.e., all services and service conditions that are indexed are also described.

    • Clearly and correctly distinguish primary services and secondary services and describe the relationship between them.

    • Clearly and correctly distinguish eligibility criteria for services and target populations served.

    • Correctly distinguish the agency’s location and the areas its programs serve.

    • Accurately reflect other required information about the agency, its locations, and its services.

    • Avoid repeating phone numbers and other numerical data that have their structured fields.

  1. Database curators develop and consistently apply rules for indexing database records using the 211 LA County Taxonomy of Human Services.  They:

    • Use Taxonomy terms within their customized list that accurately reflect the type of service provided.

    •  Use Taxonomy terms within their customized list that accurately reflect targets for service, when applicable; and only use target terms to modify service terms, not as standalone concepts representing a service.

    • Develop and adhere to internal rules for consistently assigning target population terms.

    • Consistently use the same Taxonomy terms to index the same services and the same target populations throughout the resource database.

    • Index all primary services that meet the I&R service’s inclusion/exclusion criteria.

    • Only index primary services, and avoid indexing secondary services, ancillary services, phantom services, and indirect services.

    • Avoid using terms from multiple levels on the same Taxonomy branch, except in the target populations section where the practice is permitted.

    • Avoid using multiple service terms within the Taxonomy (‘double indexing‘) regardless of where they are located in the hierarchy to index a particular service. 


  1. Database curators analyze the needs of their community, develop customized filtering capabilities that reflect those needs, and establish rules for organizing database records using search keys (such as legal status, age, gender, and languages) for filtering purposes. They:

    • Understand the structure of geographic search options within their software and accurately reflect the areas in which specific services are available using the software’s geographic system.

    • Choose and consistently use appropriate options for key fields (e.g., legal status, age, gender, languages) that accurately reflect the organization and the conditions under which services are available.

  1. Documented procedures are in place for reaching out for new resources, acquiring information about them, and, upon inclusion in the database, verification by the organization.

  1. The I&R service develops and uses a standardized survey instrument to collect consistent information about new organizations considered for inclusion in the resource database.

  1. Documented procedures are in place for gathering and integrating interim information changes (i.e., changes that occur between annual verification).  

  1. Resource database curators acquire the information they need to develop new database records or update current ones.  They:

    • Evaluate to determine whether new organizations meet established inclusion criteria, correctly apply the criteria to determine whether they should be included, and follow approved notification procedures when an organization does not meet the criteria.  

    • Appropriately use material submitted by the organization or gathered elsewhere (e.g., website, questionnaire, social media scans, pamphlets, newspaper articles) to develop an understanding of the resource, its locations, and its services/programs; document source material that is not in printed form; and verify all information with the organization before incorporating it into an entry.

    • Identify the appropriate contact when an interview is required, ask clarifying questions concisely, and document key answers. 

  1. The I&R service has updated verification procedures to ensure accuracy which include the name of the individual authorizing the update and the date of authorization. Changes and additions from all viable sources are reviewed by a resource database curator before posting. Updated records are retained until a more recent version is received.

  1. During the updating process, the I&R service accelerates the processing of responses from higher-priority organizations that deliver critical services to the community as well as those from organizations that receive the most referrals from the I&R service. The resource database curator engages in activities aimed at establishing positive, long-term relationships with these key organizations.

  1. Organizations that do not respond after multiple attempts but cannot be deleted because they offer critical services are updated via alternative methods (phone, website, or site visits). The I&R service does not require verification of the final update under these circumstances. However, documentation describing how the update was obtained and the reason for the decision not to delete the record is required. 

    • If updated by telephone, the name of the person who confirmed the information and the date are recorded.

    • If by a website visit, information that the update was verified via the Internet and the date are documented.

    • If by a site visit, the names of the people visited, and the date are recorded. 

Once the resource database curator is satisfied that they have obtained the best information possible, and has documented how and when the update was performed as well as the reason for the decision not to delete the record, it is permissible to mark the agency as having received its annual review.  

  1. The updated form or the accompanying cover letter has a statement that the I&R service reserves the right to edit information for brevity, clarity, and content, and to publish the information in a variety of media. 

  1. Resource database curators thoroughly proofread their work and eliminate spelling and grammatical errors.  

  1. The I&R service ensures that there are an adequate number of staff to properly maintain the resource database by their organization’s established inclusion/exclusion criteria while ensuring that the internal resource database policies and procedures as well as the AIRS Resource Database Standards are being met.

  1. The process for calculating the number of staff required to properly maintain the resource database involves an understanding of the:

    • Number of agency and program/service records being maintained.

    • The complexity of organizational records in terms of their maintenance challenges and the proportional weight of complex versus straightforward records.

    • Software structure and the number of steps needed to create and/or update records.

    • Time required for the additional, ancillary responsibilities assigned to resource database curators.

    • Relevance of the inclusion/exclusion criteria and the current extent to which those criteria are being met.

    • Unique geographic and related challenges (e.g., the inherent difficulties of maintaining resources for large rural areas or diverse metropolitan regions).

The I&R service has a quality assurance review process to ensure that information in the resource database is accurate and complete. 

Quality Indicators

  1. The I&R service uses a quality assurance process to evaluate records in the resource database for consistency and adherence to style guide requirements.   

  1. The I&R service regularly reviews the assignment of Taxonomy terms to resource database records to evaluate indexing consistency across organizational records and adherence to AIRS Resource Database Standards.

  1. The I&R service has a documented process for verifying information in the resource database that involves multiple attempts to achieve a 95% verification rate within a 12-month cycle. This includes a mechanism for tracking the response rate and a way of evaluating the success of the methods used (e.g., mail/electronic survey, fax, telephone, site visits, follow-up correspondence and the use of various messaging techniques). Information that cannot be verified is considered for removal from the database. 

  1. The I&R service can generate a report that lists resource database records according to the date of last annual update. The report is run at least quarterly and, depending on the result, the I&R service develops a plan to bring the database up-to-date.  

  1. The I&R service has a documented process by which resource database curators provide feedback to other community resource specialists regarding important changes that have been made in the database. 

The I&R service’s resource database is the primary source of information about the programs and services available to the community served. The I&R service collects, analyzes, and reports information that describes the types of services that are available, the organizations that provide them, and the specific areas in which services are available or unavailable in ways that are useful to themselves and community partners.  

Quality Indicators

  1. The I&R service regularly reviews its resource database to continue to meet community needs. This study includes an analysis of its resource database in terms of the types of services available within various human services sectors, the number of those services, their locations and areas served, as well as the conditions under which their services are available, (e.g., the language(s) in which they are provided, their availability during evenings and weekends. The analysis also considers the problems/needs of the community as reflected in service requests by inquirers and the ability of community resource specialists to identify referrals for them.

  1. The I&R service works with other community partners to integrate resource data and inquirer data with other relevant data sources in multiple ways; such as mapping with Census data, and overlaying requests for particularly critical services showing the location of organizations that provide those services. (e.g., matching emergency food locations against areas populated by low-income individuals and families or identifying the location of services for older adults in conjunction with Census data regarding the distribution of age groups within a community).  

  1. The I&R service reports key performance indicators derived from its quality assurance and related activities within the resource database (e.g. total organizational and program records maintained, average times for processing and responding to requests, the number of interim changes made throughout the year, the number of new records researched and added to the resource database, and the results of completed quality audits). 


I&R services at local, regional, state/provincial, and national levels work cooperatively with one another to establish and maintain meaningful working relationships while also participating in the broader service delivery system in their community.

In communities that have both comprehensive and specialized I&R services, they work together to develop cooperative and respectful working relationships to build a coordinated I&R system that ensures broad access to information and referral services, maximizes the utilization of existing I&R resources, avoids duplication of effort and encourages seamless access to community resource information. I&R services with broader geographic reach (e.g., statewide, province-wide, regional, or national-level programs) strive to develop similar working relationships within the area they serve.

Quality Indicators

  1. The I&R service participates in ongoing cooperative program planning and development activities which take into consideration community needs, existing resources, and the activities of other I&R services. Each I&R service:

    • Participates in efforts to identify community I&R needs.

    • Maintains current information about other I&R services and their activities.

    • Develops priorities for I&R program development.

    • Participates in existing cooperative I&R efforts.

    • Becomes a catalyst for new cooperative service arrangements.

    • Participates in decision-making that addresses system-wide I&R issues.

  1. The I&R service coordinates its service delivery with other programs in the area to avoid duplication of effort, encourage service integration, and ensure that information and referral are broadly available to all inquirers. Comprehensive and specialized I&R services whose service areas overlap, develop, and define their working relationships and document them in written form (such as a Memorandum of Understanding or MOU). The objectives are to ensure that people needing services have access to the most appropriate I&R service to address system-wide needs.  The agreements negotiated by agency leadership support: 

    • Community resource specialists in partnering organizations coordinate their efforts with their colleagues to meet the critical needs of all inquirers in the community.

    • Broader development of collaborative relationships through peer-to-peer interactions on behalf of inquirers and communities (e.g. community events, resource fairs, and community programs).

    • Cooperative service arrangements such as coordinated after-hours coverage and linked websites.

    • Innovative methods of delivering I&R services within the overall system.

  1. The I&R service participates in resource database collaborative or other data use partnerships (such as a statewide/province-wide database) as a means of avoiding duplication of database curation activities and achieving broader and more in-depth coverage of different types of community resources. When an I&R service has an agreement with organizations using its data, it includes conditions that protect the integrity of the resource data such as a time limit on the use of the data, an agreement that data cannot be repurposed without permission, and a description of the any updating responsibilities.

  1. When considering major technological investments, (e.g. software platforms and telecommunications), the I&R service explores collaboration with other I&R services, either within their geographical area or the broader I&R sector. 

  1. The I&R service participates in community-wide data collection, analysis, and reporting activities. Comprehensive and specialized I&R services may combine inquirer data to provide a comprehensive picture of service requests throughout the system; or may contribute data for inclusion in a statewide/province-wide report. 

  1. The I&R service strives to make the I&R system more efficient and responsive by collaborating on functions such as reporting, staff training, and public awareness.

  1. I&R services communicate with one another regarding promotional, marketing, or other communication efforts within the same media market or adjoining media markets, if there is a reasonable possibility that the public might inadvertently be confused.

The I&R service develops cooperative working relationships with human service providers (e.g., food pantries and homeless shelters) and larger service systems (e.g., those serving individuals with mental health and substance use disorder issues). These relationships help to advance an integrated service delivery system that ensures broad access to community services, maximizes the use of existing resources, and facilitates the ability of people who need services to easily find the most appropriate provider. I&R services with broader geographic reach (e.g., statewide, province-wide, regional, or national programs) strive to develop similar working relationships within the areas they serve.

Quality Indicators

  1. The I&R service explores opportunities for collaborative service delivery with service providers, e.g., participation in case coordination, eligibility screening, appointment setting, initial intake, and systems reporting.

  1. The I&R service works cooperatively with service providers to address issues that have a critical impact on the community as a whole, such as disaster relief and disaster recovery, homelessness, and health care service delivery.  

  1. The I&R service collaborates with other service providers in areas such as cross-training, awareness and outreach, knowledge sharing, and other activities that mutually benefit service providers and their clients. 

  1. The I&R service collaborates with other service providers on community-wide data collection, analysis, and reporting that enhance awareness of local problems/needs and improve client outcomes. 


I&R services have a role in meeting the needs of their community during times of disaster, acknowledging their role may vary depending on the population they serve,  or the phase of the disaster, (i.e., preparedness, response, relief, and recovery).  The I&R service is prepared to assess and provide referrals for inquirers who are experiencing a crisis due to a disaster, or who want to offer assistance and contact the I&R service for a means to do so. Preparation includes the development of emergency operations and continuity of operations plan that enables the I&R service to continue to provide services during and after a disaster.  

The I&R service has written disaster plans that specifically address incidents common to the area, and comprehensively prepare staff/volunteers for most typical emergencies. There are two main components of effective disaster planning (some organizations have two separate plans to meet this requirement):

  • An emergency operations manual that defines what constitutes a disaster as well as the organization’s disaster preparations and response procedures articulating both internal and external stakeholder expectations. The manual describes the steps the organization will take to prepare for an emergency, manage operations during an emergency, and meet the needs of the community during and after an emergency. 

  • A Continuity of Operations Plan (COOP) references emergency preparedness and mitigation activities for the entire organization. The COOP includes business continuity strategies for all critical services (e.g. payroll, human resources, and technology), the plan for them to return to operations after the disaster, and also delineates the steps to be taken to prevent or minimize business interruptions before, during and after an emergency and to support long-term recovery.

Quality Indicators

  1. The I&R service has emergency operation procedures in place for maintaining service delivery during and after an emergency that may occur in the same area in which the program is located or in an area that impacts service delivery. The I&R service has written procedures related to:

    • Continuity of mission-critical functions including:

      • Notification of activation of the disaster plan.

      • Personnel Coordination:

        • Designation of key staff.

        • Delegations of authority (e.g. communications, contracting).

        • Order of succession.

        • Expectations of personnel during duty and non-duty hours.

      • Designation of mission-essential functions.

      • Designation of alternative facilities.

      • Contact information for critical vendors and infrastructure (e.g. telephone service provider, building management).

      • Continuity of communications among staff before, during, and after a disaster.

      • Securing access to vital records and databases.

      • Plans for reconstitution and termination of emergency measures.

    • Procedures include response to various kinds of emergencies (e.g. fires, tornadoes, medical emergencies, bomb threats), such as sheltering in place, using protective equipment, and working without power.

      • Emergency evacuation of the facility, including: 

        • Designated exits.

        • Designated external personnel meeting or assembly area.

        • Procedures for ensuring staff and visitors have left the building.

        • Damage assessment.

        • Gas, electricity, and water shut-off instructions.

        •  Procedures for assisting staff and visitors with a disability leave the building.

    • Staff training and preparation:

      • Equipment needed for staff and volunteers to maintain service delivery (e.g. go-kits/bags for remote or alternate locations).

      • Periodic drills at a minimum annually, allow staff and volunteers to practice emergency procedures.

    • Post-emergency activities such as: 

      • Debriefing staff/volunteers.

      • Addressing mental health fatigue and burn-out.

      • Documenting emergency plan challenges and how to improve them going forward (e.g. after-action review).

      • Reporting the volume of inquirer requests, and the met and unmet needs to emergency planners and the community.

  1. The I&R service has procedures for maintaining service delivery (i.e., answering inquiries and continuing to update community resources) during and after an emergency including relocation or alternative modes of service delivery. The I&R service should have a mutual assistance agreement with at least one I&R service outside the area for maintaining service delivery before, during, and after an emergency. The agreement should include protocols for activation, cooperative procedures for maintaining service delivery, and training exercises and simulations. The agreement and protocols are updated annually and aligned with the I&R service’s continuity of operations plan and emergency operations plan. 

  1. The I&R service ensures that its facility is capable of handling and/or adapting to increased needs during a disaster, particularly in situations where many volunteers will be working at the facility. (e.g. 24-hour environmental controls, cleanliness, and sanitation, parking, and security, and the ability to conform with building codes and standards).  

  1. The I&R service supports and encourages all staff to develop emergency plans for their own homes and families that allow them to better fulfill their agency roles in an emergency, secure in the knowledge that their families are properly prepared.

The I&R service participates in ongoing cooperative disaster response planning in their service area and establishes relationships within the community’s disaster services network including a formal role within the community’s emergency preparedness plan.

Quality Indicators

  1. The I&R service understands the command and control structure within their jurisdiction (i.e., the responsibilities and authority of officials at city, county, state/provincial, and federal levels) and their role and that of other organizations in the response, relief, and recovery phases of a disaster. Obtaining national training or certification for incident management for staff (e.g. National Incident Management System (NIMS) or Incident Command System Canada) supports acquiring competency in this area.  

  1. The I&R service seeks formal agreements with appropriate government and private sector emergency operations and relief agencies such as local offices of emergency services, Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (VOADs), and the Red Cross. The agreements outline the roles and responsibilities of all parties.  

  1. The I&R service actively participates in community meetings that address plans for disaster preparedness, mitigation, response, relief, and recovery.

The I&R service develops, maintains, and/or uses an accurate, up-to-date resource database that contains information about available community resources that provide services in times of disaster. Database records include descriptions of the services organizations provide and the conditions under which services are available; and are indexed and accessed using the 211 LA County Taxonomy of Human Services and complying with AIRS Resource Database Standards. 

Quality Indicators

  1. The I&R service’s resource database includes information about permanent local, state/provincial, and federal disaster-related resources (i.e., organizations with a formal role in emergency response, a clearly defined disaster mission, and/or a history of providing services during previous incidents).

  1. The I&R service also includes information about organizations and services that have no formal role in emergency response but emerge in the context of a particular disaster. The I&R service monitors social media and mass media for information about new resources and changing situations. The I&R service verifies all information before sharing. A streamlined verification process, if used, must still provide a sufficient level of data validation to ensure accuracy.  

  1. The I&R service enables staff from other agencies to use the resource database to provide service delivery or resource database curation support by using the Disaster Services section of the 211 LA County Taxonomy of Human Services to index disaster-related services. Additional classification structures such as keyword index may supplement the Taxonomy but must be connected to the Taxonomy rather than functioning as independent indexing systems. 

  1. The I&R service updates disaster resources immediately before an anticipated disaster and throughout the response, relief, and recovery periods.

  1. The I&R service has a written protocol and training for staff who are assigned to provide or assist with resource database curation. 

  1. The I&R service disseminates disaster-related information by pre-existing agreements with other organizations in the community. 

The I&R service provides information, assessment, and referral services to the community before, during, and following a disaster or other emergency. Service delivery may be provided under circumstances that are more challenging and stressful than normal operations; and includes assessing the needs of the inquirer, evaluating appropriate resources, indicating organizations capable of meeting those needs, helping inquirers identify alternative resources and actively participating in linking inquirers to needed services or volunteer opportunities.  

Quality Indicators

  1. The I&R service ensures adequate staff to meet potential increases in inquirer contacts and needs.

  1. The I&R service has agreements with other I&R services that include provisions for possible relocation of staff and/or redirection of calls.  

  1. The I&R service has a written protocol and training for staff who are assigned to provide information and referral at local assistance centers or other off-site locations. 

  1. The I&R service ensures through training, monitoring, and coaching that community resource specialists have the skills to respond effectively to people in crisis, work cooperatively with other organizations, remain flexible in a rapidly changing environment, are willing to work under adverse conditions (e.g., long hours, uncomfortable surroundings), are aware of their stress levels and coping mechanisms, respond appropriately in face-to-face communications and work within the boundaries of their I&R role.

  1. The I&R service ensures through training, monitoring, and coaching that staff understands the government emergency response service delivery system and the types of services people typically need before, during, and following a disaster including:

    • Organizations that generally provide services in disaster situations. 

    • Organizations that may be closed or otherwise unable to deliver services due to the emergency (e.g., government offices, the courts).

    • Atypical services people may need to access (e.g., open hardware stores, functioning ATMs).

The I&R service also ensures through training that staff understand the structure of disaster resources within the database and/or other approved sources of disaster-related information.

  1. The I&R service has a plan for promoting mental health and wellness practices for all staff working in disaster situations, including the provision of disaster stress debriefing.

The I&R service tracks inquirer requests for service and referrals, collects demographic information from inquirers, and produces reports regarding requests for disaster-related services and referral activity.

Quality Indicators

  1. The I&R service collects and organizes inquirer data to support appropriate referrals, describe requests for disaster-related services, and identify gaps and overlaps in service.  

  1. The I&R service produces timely reports for the community and stakeholders regarding disaster-related referrals, access to services, service availability, and unmet needs.

  1. The I&R service produces an after-action report that documents the activities of the organization, including what worked well and what needs to be improved through revisions of the agency’s disaster plan and/or additional staff training.

The I&R service has technology in place that enables the organization to maintain service delivery during times of disaster or a localized emergency. 

Quality Indicators

  1. As part of the organization’s emergency operations and continuity plan, the I&R service has the technical ability to direct calls to another location (e.g., cell phones, home phones, or to another organization). 

  2. During a disaster or emergency, the I&R service has regular and emergency methods of communication between staff and management for use during calls, for after-hours contacts, and when necessary for pre and post-disaster communication (e.g., email, instant messaging, text/SMS messaging, satellite phones or mobile devices). 

  1. The I&R service has established relationships with its key vendors (e.g., telephone service, Internet service, website hosting vendor, and software vendor) to ensure that the organization is given high priority for continued service in times of disaster. 

  1. The I&R service can access the resource database (e.g., via the Internet, a copy of the database on a computer, a directory, or another print version) if regular access channels are not available.  

  1. The I&R service has a risk management and mitigation plan that identifies equipment, technical connections, and other resources that may be impacted during emergency conditions.

  1. The I&R service has an uninterruptible power supply (UPS)for all critical systems to continue operations on a short-term basis during a power failure.

  1. The I&R service has an emergency generator or other power backup that allows them to continue operations on a longer-term basis during a power failure.  The I&R service has determined the length of time the backup power supply will operate and has provided staff with information about the components of the organization’s operations (e.g., which computers, and telephones it will power.

  1. The I&R service has backup systems for their telephones (e.g., cell phones and chargers, or two-way battery-operated radios and spare batteries) to ensure ongoing access in situations where there is no local electricity.  

  1. The I&R service can remotely reprogram its phone lines and data network.

The I&R service ensures through training, monitoring, and coaching that staff are knowledgeable about emergency operations and business continuity expectations. The I&R service participates in disaster exercises to test the organization’s emergency operations and business continuity plan.  

Quality Indicators

  1. The I&R service provides staff training that addresses the specific types of disasters common to the area; the organization’s role and mission in times of disaster; the phases of disaster; federal, state/provincial, and local response plans and resources; and other topics to help prepare staff for an emergency and ensure that they understand their organization’s commitments.

  1. The I&R service provides training on the organization’s disaster preparedness procedures and protocols for all staff.  

  1. The I&R service provides training for staff community resource specialists that address the attitudes, skills, and information required to meet the needs of inquirers in crisis during a disaster. The training helps community resource specialists understand the impact of disasters on individuals and communities and addresses the specific requirements of people with special needs, (e.g., individuals with disabilities and/or health conditions, language barriers, cultural differences, or other applicable characteristics).  

  1. The I&R service provides training for resource database curators that addresses the types of pre-disaster resources that need to be included in the database as well as those that need to be added following the occurrence of an incident; use of the Disaster Services section of the 211 LA County Taxonomy of Human Services as a classification structure; and procedures for the collection, validation, maintenance, and dissemination of disaster-related information. 

  1. The I&R service has a plan to quickly recruit, train and utilize volunteers or staff who are assigned to provide information and referral and database curation

  2. The I&R service participates in community disaster exercises and monitors other disaster exercise opportunities, as appropriate. 


The I&R service’s governance and operational structure enable it to fulfill its mission. Activities include establishing itself as (or within) a legal entity, developing policies and procedures and an organizational code of ethics that guide the organization, adopting sound fiscal and personnel management practices, providing a safe and secure work environment, offering new hire onboarding and ongoing professional development, establishing and maintaining an effective technological infrastructure, increasing public awareness of the value of I&R services to the community, and developing and implementing an ongoing quality assurance and evaluation process.  

The organization’s governance and operational structure enable the I&R service to fulfill its mission.  

Quality Indicators

  1. The I&R service has (or is part of an organization that has) a governing body (e.g., a Board of Directors) that is convened according to the laws of its jurisdiction and its bylaws. The governing body represents the diverse interests of the community and oversees the implementation of goals and objectives that ensure service quality and program sustainability

If the organization operating the I&R service does not have a Board of Directors or if that Board is remote from the operation of the I&R service, an Advisory Committee of local stakeholders provides appropriate oversight. 

The governing body is responsible for providing:

    • An adequate number of professional staff to meet key performance indicators.

    • Financial and technical support to provide the necessary tools for staff to do their jobs. 

    • An annual budget, appropriate financial records, and audits are conducted by independent public accountants. 

    • Awareness and promotion of the value of I&R services.

    • Executive staff who are accountable to the governing body. 

    • Regular meetings that are documented according to the bylaws and standard governance practices. 

    • Accountability, transparency, and business continuity within the organization.  

  1. The organization has a mission statement that reflects the purpose and philosophy of the I&R service. 

  1. The I&R service has a strategic plan that is regularly reviewed by the governing body and executive staff, to assess operational effectiveness and set meaningful goals, strategic objectives, and desired outcomes. The strategic plan emerges from research, incorporates feedback from staff at all levels, and considers external stakeholder recommendations. The strategic plan may include goals for continuous improvement that are ambitious in scope but realistic given community circumstances and available resources.

  1. The I&R service uses best practices for quality measures which may include a secret shopper program, call monitoring calibrations, and working with local stakeholders (e.g. local agencies, program funders, university partners, etc.) toward program and outcomes evaluations.

  1. The I&R service has formally adopted and regularly reviewed policies and procedures that articulate its core principles. The document also covers areas such as board/organizational governance, employee policies, protections for whistleblowers, fiscal regulations, data security, hiring, and training practices; and is available to all staff.  

  1. The I&R service participates in public policy activities that focus on issues that are important to its community and its stakeholders and participates in activities that further the overall goals of the I&R service and the field as a whole. The I&R service creates reports that can be used for system advocacy in support of public policy goals.

  1. The I&R service has a formal process for registering and attempting to resolve complaints from inquirers, staff members, and the community. All complaints can be appealed to the governing body as a final step in the process. The I&R service guarantees protections for whistleblowers.

  1. The I&R service has a Code of Ethics that establishes fundamental values and professional standards of conduct for all staff. These principles address relationships with colleagues, managers, the communities they serve, and other human service professionals with whom they work. The Code of Ethics is approved by the governing body and included in the employee handbook or equivalent. All staff review and sign this document to demonstrate their understanding and agreement.

  1. The I&R service has a statement approved by the organization’s governing body prohibiting discrimination in all of its forms and provides training for all staff that addresses anti-discrimination practices to ensure their full understanding and compliance. The nondiscrimination statement should include equity and inclusion principles. 

  1. The I&R service has sound fiscal controls to manage revenue and expenses responsibly and sustainably.  All financial controls and procedures are consistent with generally accepted accounting principles and in compliance with legal requirements.

  1. The I&R service has sufficient insurance coverage, including cyber insurance (to protect against possible data breaches), and personal and property liability/indemnification for board members, staff, and volunteers.

  2. The I&R service provides appropriate, accessible, safe, and secure operational space, including areas for confidential interviewing, and equipment that facilitates the ability of staff to do their work.

The I&R service uses technology that supports the ability of staff to meet operational goals, improve access, accommodate the communications preferences of inquirers, remove barriers to information, and overall assure a positive client experience. Technology may include telephone and telecommunications systems (such as ACDs), computer systems and software applications, assistive technology for people with disabilities, instant messaging (IM), text/SMS messaging, online chat, video relay, social media, and self-service mechanisms such as automated attendant/interactive voice response systems, community kiosks and searchable I&R databases on the Internet.  

Quality Indicators

  1. The I&R service evaluates and tests new methods of access and technical advances before implementation to ensure that service delivery is enhanced, and the privacy and confidentiality of inquirers are protected.  

  1. The I&R service reviews how different demographic groups in the community access information and creates technology goals for the organization that reflect changing inquirer needs and preferences.

  1. The I&R service ensures that its public website and searchable online resource database and/or mobile app is accessible to all individuals including people with disabilities.

  1. The I&R service has a plan to update technology when needed. 

  1. The I&R service creates and retains a digital and/or paper copy of payroll, personnel, legal and financial records in compliance with applicable legal requirements.

  1. The I&R service has information technology, cybersecurity, and cyber ethics policies and practices that address threats to inquirer privacy; safeguard critical client and resource data by controlling access, sharing, retention, and disposal of data; secure physical IT assets; and provide related training for all staff. All policies are reviewed and updated at least every two years.

  1. The I&R service conducts technology redundancy exercises annually and documents the results. The exercises highlight vulnerabilities in data backup and system restoration protocols for all main technology databases and servers to ensure that data will not be lost.  

  1. The I&R service has access to professionals with technical expertise to ensure that the organization’s technology is being appropriately maintained and that provisions are in place to ensure a priority response to any breakdowns in key infrastructure.

The I&R service uses a person-centered approach to personnel management based on policies, procedures, and tools that facilitate service continuity, quality, and consistency. Key elements include ensuring that staffing levels are based on demand and an executive team that ensures positive and healthy relationships throughout all levels of the organization.  

Quality Indicators

  1. The I&R service has an organizational chart that shows levels of authority and the reporting relationships within the organization.  If the agency is part of a larger organization, the I&R service is included within the chart.

  1. The I&R service conducts succession planning to ensure continued effective leadership by providing for the development and replacement of key staff regardless of how an absence occurs (sudden, planned, temporary, or permanent). The plan guides leadership transitions when an executive director or other key staff leaves the organization or accepts another role. The plan includes the identification of potential replacements and strategies for developing current staff and/or hiring new individuals with the skills to meet future needs. 

  1. The I&R service has job descriptions for all employees and volunteers that outline duties, responsibilities, essential job functions, and supervisory relationships. The job descriptions are reviewed every two years.

  1. The I&R service recruits and hires qualified staff who exhibit competence, ethical behavior, compatibility with organizational values, a positive and caring attitude, and reflect the community served. The I&R service:

    • Disseminates listings for both employee and volunteer positions broadly to ensure that qualified candidates who reflect the diversity of the community are aware of open opportunities.

    • Compares each candidate’s qualifications and experience to the job description using a standardized screening process.  

    • Uses structured questions that are specific to the position and the values of the organization, to interview candidates. 

    • Has an objective process for interviewing and evaluating candidates, including an assessment of each applicant’s skills, knowledge, and aptitude before making a formal offer.  

  1. The I&R service provides ongoing supervision, evaluation, mentoring, and support of all employees and volunteers using standardized observation and performance appraisal forms. When performance problems are identified, they are documented and addressed in an individual improvement plan. If the improvements outlined in the plan are not met, the I&R service has a procedure for progressive discipline that includes terminating employment.

  1. The I&R service complies with legal requirements for staff requiring reasonable accommodations, which may include assistive technology.

  1. The I&R service provides tools and technology to support the ability of staff and volunteers to work remotely. When community resource specialists are working off-site, procedures are in place to ensure that there is no discernible difference in the quality of service.  Personnel procedures and training opportunities are consistent with those available to on-site staff and volunteers.  Remote I&R service delivery requirements include provisions for staff to:  

    • Make three-way calls to connect inquirers to external resources including access to a language interpreter.

    • Contact emergency services while maintaining a connection with the inquirer.

    • Work in a distraction-free environment.

    • Access supervisory assistance including coaching, when required, and for supervisors to exercise quality assurance measures.

  1. The I&R service has internal procedures that enable communication between and among management and staff, through a variety of activities including (e.g. regular staff meetings, online social media discussions or forums, in-person dialogue, collaborative problem-solving), to facilitate information sharing and input. 

  1. The I&R service conducts a comprehensive workplace ergonomic analysis at least every three years to identify and mitigate risk factors. The evaluation considers work activities, repetitive movement patterns, workstation design, workplace seating, work tools and equipment, and the posture of staff. 

  1. The I&R service works collaboratively with staff to develop a workplace program that encourages positive lifestyle choices such as regular exercise and healthy eating, both inside and outside the workplace, as ways to reduce stress, burn-out, and compassion fatigue, maintain healthy relationships at work, and improve staff retention. 

  1. The I&R service monitors employee turnover/attrition and reasons for leaving and has a process for identifying when the turnover percentage begins to impact service delivery and quality (e.g. exit surveys or interviews, and confidential staff surveys.). 

The I&R service provides training for new hires as well as existing staff and volunteers. The training reflects job descriptions for individual positions and is consistent with material in the AIRS I&R Training Manual, the AIRS Standards, and the Job Task Analysis for community resource specialists and resource database curators. 

Quality Indicators

  1. The curriculum encompasses the tasks, knowledge, and skills outlined in the AIRS Job Task Analyses for Community Resource Specialists (CRS), Community Resource Specialists – Aging/Disabilities (CRS-A/D), and Community Resource Specialists – Database Curators (CRS-DC).  

  1. The I&R service’s new hire and ongoing professional development training are consistent with the material contained in the AIRS I&R Training Manual. 

  2. The I&R service accommodates the diverse learning styles of staff and volunteers including visual, auditory, and kinesthetic learners.

  1. The I&R service provides new hire orientation and onboarding for new staff and volunteers that addresses:

    • The role, mission, values, culture, and purpose of the I&R service.

    • The structure and policies/procedures of the organization including the role of the governing body.

    • The range of services provided, and the functions associated with specific positions.

    • The legal requirements that affect service delivery (e.g., abuse reporting, privacy/confidentiality). 

    • Compliance training required by stakeholders and jurisdictions (e.g., cultural competency, sexual harassment, anti-racism, civil rights).

  1. Following orientation, a staged training process includes:

    •  Training periods that allow new community resource specialists to practice their skills in a supervised environment (e.g. job shadowing, role-playing, observation), where duties are monitored, and coaching is available. 

    • On-the-job training involves increasing levels of responsibility until the individual is self-sufficient and able to handle day-to-day tasks independently.

    • Ongoing professional development that offers continuing education opportunities that focus on broadening skills, deepening expertise, and expanding knowledge. Activities may include in-house training or external training such as continuing education classes, webinars, or workshops offered at I&R conferences or other professional gatherings. 

  1. The I&R service evaluates newly trained staff using objective tools (e.g., written tests, quality monitoring forms, and subjective measures (e.g., observation) to ascertain whether trainees have developed sufficient competency before assuming additional duties.  Procedures are in place to guide decisions for trainees who do not demonstrate the required competency within a specified period such as completing a review at the end of the probation period that includes coaching and feedback regarding performance and expectations moving forward.  

  1. The I&R service evaluates the effectiveness of its training program and the performance of its trainers and modifies the training based on feedback and evaluation. 

    8. Certification and recertification are included in the ongoing professional development plans for all staff and volunteers. Community resource specialists, resource database curators, and other staff seek to obtain professional credentials such as AIRS Certification through organizationally recognized state, provincial/territorial, or national programs.

The I&R service operates an outreach program to increase public awareness of the organization, the services it provides, and the value and impact of I&R on individuals, families, and the broader community. Outreach is tailored to reach and address the diversity of people living in the community and care is taken to avoid creating a demand that the I&R service is unable to meet.

Quality Indicators

  1. The I&R service sets goals that establish outreach objectives (e.g., to increase the number of inquiries from a particular county by 5% over the next year) and establishes a process for tracking effectiveness (e.g. examining demographic and referral data).

  1. The I&R service structures its outreach activities to target specific populations within the community (e.g., faith-based organizations, diverse cultural communities, law enforcement, and schools) and establishes a process for tracking the number of targeted populations engaged.

  1. If the I&R service is part of a larger organization or has staff working in other departments, outreach plans and objectives are coordinated to ensure that all staff are aware of commitments made, capacity to respond, and community expectations.

  1. When multiple I&R services operate in the same media market, they keep each other informed about any pending awareness, marketing, and public relations campaigns before the campaign’s launch. This communication helps I&R services to prepare for any potential increase in demand or confusion that may arise from inquirers. If the two I&R services are focusing on the same target groups, they explore collaboration.

  2. The I&R service publicizes its services to people in the community who may experience barriers to accessing services due to factors such as disabilities, social isolation, housing instability, and language or cultural barriers.

  3. The I&R service improves public relations by communicating regularly with community service providers, government officials, and local planning bodies and by participating in various community activities (e.g. community resource fairs, cross-sectoral collaborations, and community planning meetings).

The I&R service has a quality assurance process that assesses the effectiveness of its services, its appropriate involvement in the community, and its overall impact on the people it serves.  Quality assurance is included in all aspects of the I&R service (service delivery, resource database, reports and measures, cooperative relationships, disaster preparedness, and organizational effectiveness.  The I&R service uses its performance and quality data to assess operational effectiveness, enhance decision-making, improve accountability, set meaningful goals and strategic objectives, and articulate outcomes in key areas of its operation.  Key performance indicators (KPIs) and associated metrics are defined, measured, and aligned with the AIRS Standards as well as stakeholder expectations. KPIs may include individual and programmatic metrics which are developed in consideration of available resources. The quality assurance process evolves as the I&R service builds its capacity to assess its program areas, and encourages input and support from all levels of the organization.  

Quality Indicators

  1. The I&R service identifies, defines, and regularly measures program and key performance indicators for service delivery, that are aggregated and averaged regularly. These indicators may include:  

    • Call volume.

    • Abandoned calls

    • Average abandonment rate.

    • Average abandonment time.

    • Occupancy rate.

    • The average speed of the answer.

    • Service level.

    • Incoming call patterns.


  1. The I&R service identifies, defines, and regularly measures program and service key performance indicators (KPIs) for their Community Resource Specialists which may be reviewed for individual staff as well as aggregated and averaged. These indicators may include:  

    • Average call handling time.

    • Average talk time. 

    • Call quality.

    • Customer satisfaction.

    • Data completeness.

  1. The I&R service identifies, defines, and regularly measures program and key performance indicators for resource database curators, which may be reviewed for individual staff as well as aggregated and averaged.  These indicators may include  New Agency/Program outreach.

    • Interim data changes.

    • Resource database record audits.

    • Resource database responsiveness.

  1. The I&R service identifies, defines, and regularly measures program and service outcomes to better understand and illustrate the role it plays in connecting inquirers to organizations that provide the services they need.  The organization is responsible for the accuracy and relevance of the service it provides for inquirers but does not measure or evaluate the quality or impact of the service providers to whom inquirers are referred.  Outcomes information is obtained via direct follow-up with inquirers, data partnerships, electronic surveys, case studies and impact stories, and other measures. Examples of outcome measures include, but are not limited to: 

    • Customer Satisfaction Rates - % of satisfied inquirers or agencies. 

    • Connection Rates - % of inquirers whose needs were partially or fully met. 

    • Penetration Rates - % of the community that is aware of the I&R services based on the service area population. 

    • Improvement/Impact Rates - % of people whose situation has improved as a result of their interaction with the I&R service. 

    • Case studies and impact stories are a description of an inquirer’s situation and contact experience (e.g. general demographics such as age, gender, location, etc., steps taken to develop rapport,  assessment process, problems overcome, actions taken, referrals made, supplementary follow-up/advocacy provided).

  1. The I&R service annually gathers feedback from organizations included in the resource database to measure the organization’s level of satisfaction with the accuracy of the information contained in their record, their familiarity with the I&R service’s resource database, and their assessment of interactions with the resource department. This feedback may be gathered as part of the annual update process or through a separate survey.  Results are used to improve the resource database and the update process.  Survey questions may include:

    • How satisfied are you with the listing of your organization’s information in the resource database?

    • How satisfied are you with the update process?

    • Are you aware of the online database?

    • Do you or your staff use the online database?  If so, how often?

    • How would you rate your experience using the online database?

    • If you have interacted with the resource database department, how would you rate your experience?

  1. The I&R service also involves representatives and members of the community in their quality assurance process and uses the feedback received to make improvements and program modifications. Methods may include:

    • Online surveys with community agencies and/or the general public.

    • Focus groups.

    • Community meetings.

    • Third-party research and reports.

  1. The I&R service ensures that key staff are trained on quality improvement strategies; and may employ an internal quality team or task force to review, monitor and implement quality changes.  

  1. The I&R service strives to secure and retain accreditation by a nationally recognized body, as well as encouraging staff to seek individual certification in their profession.