Hamilton County faces critical shortage of 911 dispatchers, employees work to limit
CINCINNATI (WXIX) — There’s a staff shortage at the Hamilton County Communications Center, and it’s taking a heavy toll on those who work there.
Dispatchers must be staffed at all hours of the day, every day of the week. It is a difficult task and an indispensable necessity for each of the inhabitants of the county.
Kelly Petit has been a dispatcher for 11 years. She says some calls always stay with you, like the one she answered recently.
“It was one of those calls where the wife was crying, and I’m trying to get the information, and her son shot himself in the head, and I had to transfer,” Petit recalled. . “I’m a mum, so I thought about my kids at the time.”
Petit says the work is rewarding. She describes it as a call, and that’s why she keeps answering the phone.
But the communications center is experiencing a labor shortage. Staffing levels are down despite the county’s best efforts: a 13% salary increase this year; accelerated hiring and training; and incentives like paid family leave and tuition reimbursement.
“In 2022, we hired 11 people in total, 11 new people,” said Andrew Knapp, HCCC communications director. “But we had 12 resignations.”
Knapp says they need to fill 15 more positions. Current dispatchers, like Krisy Dewalt, work a lot of overtime to fill in the gaps.
“We work 16 hours a day. We might not have a day off for 14 days. It’s exhausting. We are tired,” Dewalt said. “We want to see our families.
Knapp acknowledges that double shifts happen “more often than they should.” He says there is a danger in the mental stress placed on these dispatchers who work well past their designated end time. Most don’t know when they arrive at work what time they can leave.
“The reality is, it’s going to impact your body,” Knapp said. “These calls that we hear… Like, obviously, you can’t ring a bell. It’s the same thing. There are certain things that you hear, and that you’re involved in, that you can’t undo.
DeWalt celebrates its 15th anniversary at the Communications Center. “People’s worst day is my day at work,” she said. At the same time, she explains that she responds more to good calls than to bad ones.
“This dad is freaking out. Mom is freaking out. And then you hear this baby crying, you hear mom and dad clapping…that’s the best feeling,” she said.
When asked what kind of person it takes to become a dispatcher, she said someone who cares, is dedicated and understands shift work.
“It’s a 24/7 operation, Monday to Friday, 365 holidays, weekends… You’ll miss some family stuff, but it’s the most rewarding job you’ll ever have. could have,” DeWalt said.
You can apply to be a Hamilton County Dispatcher here.
See a spelling or grammatical error in our story? Please include the title when you Click here to report it.
Copyright 2022 WXX. All rights reserved.