GREENSBORO, N.C. — Labor shortages are impacting the nation, and emergency dispatch centers are not immune. The National Emergency Number Association reports that nationally, emergency dispatch centers are seeing 15-20% employee turnover. 

What You Need To Know

  • Guilford Metro 911 has seen an uptick in emergency calls over the past two months, mostly related to COVID-19

  • The emergency dispatch center has 15 open positions for dispatchers

  • The National Emergency Number Association reports a 15-20% employee turnover rate at emergency centers nationally

Guilford Metro 911 is responsible for taking emergency phone calls and connects with EMS, police and fire departments to get help to people in need. Scott Harrison has been a dispatcher for 19 years. He looks forward to helping his community every day. 

“You know you’re going to come in every day and make a difference in somebody’s life. You just don’t know exactly what’s going to happen once you pick up that phone call,” Harrison said.  

Over the past two months, Harrison has seen an influx in COVID-19 related calls, and a decrease in first responders able to get to those calls. While people won’t notice a delay when dialing 911, it may take slightly longer for EMS, fire and police officers to arrive.

“Sometimes resources are stretched so thin, that whoever’s working on EMS dispatch may not have enough ambulances to send on a call,” Harrison said. 

He says this is the opposite of what he's seen at the start of the pandemic. Many people avoided calling 911 because of the risk of catching or spreading the coronavirus.

Guilford Metro 911 is also in need of dispatchers. The center currently has 15 open positions. While there is typically some turnover, emergency dispatchers have had to work overtime to cover 12-hour overnight shifts.

Harrison says those who are thinking about a career in public service should consider the role. All training is done in-house.

“We are the first point of contact. They call us the first first responder, which kind of sounds a little silly when we hear it or whatever, but we are the first person that the public comes into contact with,” Harrison said. 

Asheville, Durham, Raleigh and Union County are all looking for emergency dispatchers as well. For more information on Guilford Metro 911, click here