Cities across the nation are scrambling trying to hire enough 911 dispatchers.
The shortage was sparked by a combination of the high pressure and low pay of the position. Call centers across the country and in North Texas need people to hire.
911 dispatchers inside the Southwest Regional Communications Center are the connection between those needing help and getting help.
“When people call 911, it’s not for, ‘I just had a baby. I’m so excited. I just got married I just won the lottery.’ It’s always for an emergency,” said Tamara Bell, the center’s managing director.
The center answers about 300,000 calls a year for Cedar Hill, DeSoto and Duncanville.
“Listening to the murders, domestic violence, car wrecks, listening to that bad news all day everyday it can be hard on some people,” Bell said.
The stress, the shifts, and the nationwide average pay of $17-22 an hour is creating the shortage of those answering emergency calls.
People in the profession are telling their message hoping to recruit more messengers.
“What we try to do is go out a lot to a lot of different events just to talk about 911,” Bell said. “We let everyone know what we actually do at 911 and let them know how it can be fun and how it can be rewarding.”
Despite the rigors and responsibility, there are rewards.
“It’s a really good feeling knowing you got help out to somebody,” said dispatcher Linda Armendariz. “And at the end of the call, they're just thanking you.”
Like other places, the Southwest Regional Communications Center is down four positions right now. They are in the middle of a pay study and hope to raise wages for the important workers.