FORSYTH COUNTY, N.C. (WGHP) — The people you look to in a time of crisis are facing a crisis of their own.
No matter the time of day or night, 911 dispatchers are there to help. But in Forsyth County, 911 dispatchers are the ones in need.
“Most people understand when they come in this job, there is a lot of weight on your shoulders to perform and be here,” James Nelson, a shift supervisor with Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office’s 911 Center, says.
That weight on their shoulders has gotten heavier lately because in Forsyth County they’re six dispatchers short.
“We are in mandatory overtime,” Nelson says.
That means working long shifts and showing up on an on-call basis if someone is sick or can’t make it to work that day. “There has to be enough people to handle the phone traffic, handle the officer traffic. It is officer safety issues as well as the citizens. They are not getting the service they should,” said Nelson.
Nelson believes that the hours and pay have contributed to people walking away from this crucial career making sure there’s someone always there in your time of need.
“It takes something special to become a dispatcher,” said Nelson, discussing the hectic environment that they work in, as phones all around them ring and radios go off.
On top of the pressure of the job, they have to separate themselves from the stories they hear whenever they pick up the phone. The dispatchers have a “nest” where people can go if they need a moment to regroup on the job, a calming area with comfortable chairs and, most importantly, quiet time away from the constant deluge of calls.
“When we are already pushing everybody to work mandatory overtime if we lose more people I am not quite sure where it would lead,” said Nelson. “I don’t know what they’d do if we lost more.”
Nelson says that the rush a dispatcher can get from being able to truly help someone is a big positive of the job.