911 Dispatcher Shortage

By: Michael Gorsegner
By: Michael Gorsegner

November 15, 2006

It's a grueling job with long hours in a stressful setting and now nationwide, 911 dispatch centers are feeling the affects of less call takers.

"You never know what you are going to get when you pick up that 911 line," said Shift Supervisor Jo Scites.

They are the first voice that a caller hears in their time of need. Emergency dispatchers at the Emergency Communications Center deal with calls from cows in the road to violent crimes. But more and more, dispatchers are at a premium.

"It's harder to attract the right people and the people who want to stay. It's a very high pressure job and it's very demanding. The scheduling is not often the best," said Communications Supervisor Kathy Richardson.

Nationwide, the turnover rate hovers around 20 percent a year. The numbers run about the same at the ECC on Ivy Road, averaging 18 percent. Richardson has been on the job for over 20 years and knows it takes someone special.

"You have to be able to think quick under pressure, be able to do a 100 things at one time and do them well," she said.

"Knowing that you are a part of something that's very vital to the community and you get to play that important role," Scites said.

With three current job openings, ECC officials are looking for that certain someone.

"Most of the people that are in this profession are here because they want to be. They have a genuine desire to help other people and that is what keeps them here," Richardson said.

Right now, ECC officials say the shifts are being adequately covered with a little bit of overtime. But more employees means a more streamlined process and in the end, better service.

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