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Study: Staffing an issue for nearly 50% of 911 dispatch centers

“Public safety is put at risk,” said Ty Wooten, IAED director of government affairs


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By Leila Merrill

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah — As call volumes continue to rise, adequate staffing is one of the biggest issues facing nearly half of all U.S. emergency dispatch centers in the U.S., according to a new study.

The study jointly conducted by the International Academies of Emergency Dispatch and the National Association of State 911 Administrators received responses from 774, 911 centers in 47 states.

Some key findings:

  • While 27% of centers reported no change in actual staffing levels over the most recent four-year period, 36% reported having fewer positions filled in 2022 than they did in 2019.
  • The 911 staffing problem appears to be wide ranging, affecting parts of every state and every size of 911 center. The 25 centers reporting the greatest losses are located in all regions of the country, and the average vacancy rate is similar across all sizes of agencies.
  • Nearly one-third reported stunning vacancy rates in 2022. Thirteen reported that 70% or more of positions were unfilled; 92 reported a vacancy rate between 50-69%; and 166 reported rates of 30% to 49%.

“An alarming number of 911 centers are experiencing their own workforce emergencies,” said Harriet Rennie-Brown, executive director of NASNA. “Better workforce recruitment, retention, and support are crucial to the quality of the 911 emergency services we all rely on.”

“When there are more incoming demands on the 911 center than there are trained, qualified personnel to respond, public safety is put at risk,” said Ty Wooten, IAED director of government affairs.

Nearly every respondent reported a loss of employees in 2022, for a total of 3,952 staff departures across the 774 centers in one year. Telecommunicators and emergency dispatchers with at least one year of experience reported leaving the profession due to the stress of the job, or for better work hours, better opportunities, or better pay.

Employees listed pay increases and better benefits as the top two retention incentives.

Several 911 leaders also noted the importance of state and federal reclassification of 911 professionals as a “protective service” occupation, as called for by the federal 911 SAVES Act, which would help ensure that emergency dispatchers receive the respect and support other first responders receive.

For more detailed information from the report, see the IAED-NASNA Workforce Survey Data Sheet.