In early June, we covered how covid-related staffing shortages were plaguing dispatch centers across the United States.
With far fewer operators to take emergency calls, locals in states like Mississippi, North Carolina, Ohio, and more were forced to wait thirty seconds or longer to get an answer.
And although several months have passed, this is unfortunately still the case in places like Jefferson County, Colorado.
These days, call centers in the Denver metro area are losing dispatchers at an alarming rate and finding it difficult to replace them.
The result? 911 wait times are still high. But the locals aren’t the only ones paying the price…
Covid’s Unprecedented Impact on the Job Market
By now, it’s no surprise that the covid-19 pandemic sent a massive shockwave through the labor market.
At its peak in April of last year, unemployment shot up to a staggering 14.8%. Now, with things opening back up, we made it back down to 5.2%…
But despite this improvement, nationwide staffing shortages are putting a strain on industries both big and small.
The construction, transportation, and manufacturing industries have been impacted the most by these shortages, but as we’ve seen, 911 call centers aren’t immune to this trend.
Not only does the risk of contracting the virus serve as a strong deterrent for potential workers, but many of them feel that dealing with that risk simply isn’t worth it for pre-pandemic wages.
As a result, many employers have adapted by raising their rates to retain employees — especially for high-stress positions like 911 operators.
In fact, Denver Emergency Communications officials are adopting this strategy to help combat the staffing shortages they’re experiencing. But while this method will surely bring in more new candidates, training takes several months to complete.
So until then, it’s up to the veteran operators to pick up all the slack.
What’s the Damage?
Jeffcom911, the emergency dispatch center for Jefferson County, has seen thirty operators leave their positions so far this year. And not surprisingly, they’re still trying to recover.
To effectively handle their call volume, they need 118 dispatchers on staff. But as of this September, they’re only working with 100 — ten of which are in training.
Now, being down twenty-eight employees would place an awful lot of pressure on any team. But considering how mentally and emotionally taxing being a 911 dispatcher can be, Jeffcom911’s remaining staff members have an incredible amount of weight on their shoulders…
“A lot of us are coming in early or staying late and doing that multiple times throughout the week, and sometimes weeks on end…Our morale at times can affect the way that we do the job, which I hate to say, but we’re tired. We’re human just like everyone else,” said Marq Nava, emergency communications specialist at the Jefferson County dispatch center.
But as tenuous as things may be at Jeffcom, Denver 911’s staffing shortage problem is far worse.
Under normal circumstances, Denver’s emergency response center is supposed to have 93 people on staff.
These days, they only have 67, with twelve of them in training. That means they’re currently down by thirty-eight employees, and the rest of the staff is certainly feeling the heat.
“When staffing levels get low and then you add to that that our call volume is the highest it’s been in five years, that means that there is certainly the potential to be on hold…When you are dealing with frustrated and impatient people on top of the traumatic and difficult calls that they take on a daily basis, it can add up,”
Said Andrew Dameron, Denver Emergency Communications Director.
And since new trainees take months to bring up to speed, it may take some time before these dispatch centers catch up to their staffing needs.
Unfortunately, locals in these areas of Colorado may be looking at increased 911 wait times for the foreseeable future.
What Does That Mean for You?
If you’re a Jefferson County resident or live in another area affected by staffing shortages, there’s always risk involved with calling 911.
Whenever you dial, you’re rolling the dice on whether or not an operator will answer your call in a reasonable amount of time.
And when every second can mean the difference between life and death, that means you’re risking everything…
But you don’t have to.
For fast, risk-free emergency response every single time, you can download the Rescu app. This mobile medical alert system doesn’t require any communication with dispatchers, so you can get the help you need the moment you need it.
All it takes is two taps on your smartphone to send fire, police, or medical services directly to your address. And since Rescu has its own dedicated dispatch center, you’ll never have to wait for an answer.
Click below to download on the Apple Store or Google Play today. And stay tuned. Soon, you’ll be able to use Rescu’s rapid response service anywhere in the United States with our upcoming Prime subscription!