Like most County departments and the workforce in general, the Wayne County 911 Emergency Center has a shortage of staff.
Currently, 911 operators are working 16-18 hour days in what is considered a strenuous job.
Yes, COVID has taken its toll, but a death within the staff on Wednesday and transfers to other County departments is also contributing to the pressures. A total of six 911 operators have left in the past year.
It takes a high school diploma to apply for a 911 operator position, but the civil service test, typing requirements, multi-tasking test, six month training and ongoing education programs take a toll.
The last class started with 100 applicants, 75 who turned up for the first day, 60 who passed the initial program and that left 40 after typing and multi-tasking tests.
Successful recruits, after the six-month training, then face odd hours including weekends, holiday and birthdays on the job. Then the stress and emotional toll from dealing with people, perhaps experiencing their worst day on the planet.
“It’s not like there can be an empty chair at 911. Somebody has to sit in that chair,” said 911 operator, CSCA Union President David Stalker. He added that another 911 operator is leaving next week to attend training to become a Wayne County Sheriff.
According to Emergency Management Director, George Bastedo, 911 operators have one of the most critical positions in the County.
According to County Administrator, Rick House, it is extremely difficult to maintain a full 911 staff. The union contract satisfied wage and working conditions, but since the contract was approved, wages in the private sector have skyrocketed. Even though Wayne County is competitive with surrounding municipalities, the “silver tsunami” of retiring has elevated middle positions to management, but left the workforce short in critical positions. “The world is changing fast.” He added that with the current shortage of workers, the more flexible public sector is gouging the municipal workforce.
“Yes, we’re in trouble, but we are not alone. This has hit everybody pretty tough”.
County leaders have indicated that the number of employees with COVID, or in isolation due to COVID restrictions, often equals the number of people without COVID restrictions.