Local governments use creative methods to recruit, train 911 dispatchers

Jim Cunningham
August 08, 2018 - 6:54 am

With 911 dispatchers in high demand across the country, some agencies in the Kansas City area are doing their best to fill positions.

"We have a lot of new-hires and we're still conducting interviews to get ourselves fully-staffed," said Tamara Bazzle, a communications training supervisor with the Kansas City Police Department.

The shortage of communications employees is caused by a number of factors, including retirements, resignations and transfers, Bazzle said.

"Sometimes people that try to come into this position aren't necessarily cut out for the position," Bazzle said.

The shortage has an impact on call-taking. Each shift has a minimum staffing requirement. When they are short, the people are required to work overtime. 

Johnson County Emergency Management and Communications is back to full staff after experiencing shortages in 2015.

"We updated our training requirements and restructured our training program so that we could have better retention," said Marie Athearn, Johnson County spokeswoman. "It's really helped us be successful."

The biggest challenge for dispatchers and call takers are the weekends, holidays, overtime requirements and the fact they are always on call.

"The other thing that takes away from family or personal commitments is that we're a weather central," Athearn said. "If severe weather comes in, we have to overstaff; we have to make sure we have the coverage to handle the volume that's coming in."

The challenges of working as an emergency communicator come with the satisfaction they receive by helping people in their worst moments.

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