GREENSBORO, N.C. — It’s a big strain on a major nerve center in the Piedmont Triad that fields emergency calls. Guilford Metro 911 needs operators to answer thousands of calls a day from people needing help. The vacancies are double what they usually deal with and it means your public safety could be at risk.
“We are the first, first responders that are helping you get the help that you need,” said Paige Cummings, a senior supervisor at Guilford Metro 911.
There have been 12 openings for the past five months leaving call takers and dispatchers to share the responsibility to take extra calls in an already stressed environment. The operation has more than 90 authorized positions.
“The less staff we have the more work is being put on each and every one of us to still be able to deliver the high level of service that’s expected from us,” Cummings said. “We may not be able to spend as much time on each call as we could.”
If the positions were filled it would mean more time helping callers through difficult situations and gathering information for first responders.
“Any safety information we can give the police officers, if there’s a gun involved that’s a major, major help to them,” she said. “Not only for their safety but also for the people around that emergency or even involved in it.”
In 2020, call talkers answered 737,000 emergency and non-emergency calls combined. There were more than 400,000 times first responders were dispatched to emergencies when seconds mattered.
“You can’t pick and choose what type of call you’re going to take and so your stress level can stay up for quite a long period of time,” Cummings said.
Greensboro City Council members took notice and discussed public safety staffing issues at a work session on Tuesday.
“Public safety is all of those things and they work in such tandem with one another that if any one of those is understaffed or we’re having these issues with one of these areas is going to impact the others,” said Michelle Kennedy, at-large member of the Greensboro City Council.
Cummings told FOX8 an increase in pay will help attract qualified candidates to answer calls in a time of need.
“We are the third-largest 911 agency in the state and unfortunately our pay, our starting salary does not reflect that,” she said.
Guilford Metro 911 has reduced the age requirement for people to apply from 21 to 18 to help gain more interest. The application process includes several tests and at least six months of training.
Other city departments are trying to fill vacant positions. Greensboro city officials report 45 vacancies at the Greensboro Police Department and 37 at the Greensboro Fire Department.