WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (WGHP)– Mandatory overtime at the Winston-Salem 911 call center has been in effect for seven years, and the struggle to get qualified individuals has only become increasingly difficult as the worker shortage felt across the country shows very little signs of easing up.
The call center sits within the Winston-Salem Police Department and dispatches calls for service to WSPD officials, Winston-Salem Fire Department workers and Emergency Medical Services.
Jerri Crews has done this for close to 30 years.
“Everybody wants to grow up to be a fireman or a police officer, but somebody has to tell them where to go,” she said. “What the officers are seeing, what the EMTs are seeing when they get on scene, we’re hearing it.”
The call center is considered fully staffed when it has 47 individuals that split 12 hours shifts, 24/7, 365 days a year.
Currently, however, there are only 24 positions filled, and 911 Call Center Director Martha Hix explained that applications to fill these positions are few and far between.
“In the last three to four months, we’ve received 15 applications…would typically be 150. There was one point that for three months, we had none,” she said.
When asked why she thought people were no longer applying for the position in droves, she said that she believed it was due to a lack of motivation to be involved in community service.
“The work that they do here, it’s hard to explain because they are working many, many, many hours of overtime,” she said.
The department has taken steps to fill some of the gaps to allow people who have worked more than seven 12-hour days in a row to take breaks.
Those steps include moving street officers from the WSPD into those positions.
The department has begun to look at ways to increase incentives for people to apply for the job.
Pre-pandemic, people were paid around $35,000 at the start of their careers.
Now, that pay has increased to $37,800 for a trainee and close to $40,000 once a person has completed their training.