If you’re a resident in the Kansas City, Missouri, area and need a quick buck, there might be an exciting new opportunity for you.
Of course, if you’re a resident of Kansas City, you’re probably already aware that the city has been plagued by a recent issue prompting that aforementioned fiscal opportunity — there is a distinct lack of 911 dispatchers to take emergency calls.
The industry standard? Ninety percent of 911 calls answered within 15 seconds.
The issue has gotten so dire that Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas went on “Fox & Friends” to discuss the various remedies his city is attempting, including a $5,000 signing bonus.
Lucas also mentioned the prospects of increasing 911 dispatcher salaries (Fox News notes that the median salary for public safety telecommunicators is roughly $46,670 per year), as well as other benefits to make the position more appealing.
“In addition to the other incentives, better hours. So instead of just having to work mandatory overtime, which often happens … particularly if you have children that are very incompatible to being at home, making sure we’re finding more flexible hours for folks,” Lucas said.
It’s not just better hours and better pay.
Lucas made it clear that he’s aiming to improve the work environment and provide better career opportunities, as well.
But Lucas’ most powerful pleas came when he had to remind everyone just how stressful, difficult and thankless it can be being an emergency dispatcher.
“I think sometimes it’s overlooked just how hard this job is,” Lucas said. “You’re on the phone with people in sometimes the most tense situations in their lives and including in life and death situations. Too often I think the pay has been too low. So that’s why we’re trying to say not only will you be paid well, there will there be good benefits, and it will be a good quality of life, but frankly, that we’ll thank them in more ways too.”
The issues raised by Lucas reflect some of the most common reasons that people quit being a 911 dispatcher.
To be clear, Lucas is not crying wolf here to justify wasteful government spending. The raw numbers back up the claim that Kansas City is going through a significant issue with emergency dispatchers.
As KCUR noted, in 2021, the Kansas City Police Department had three total vacancies when it came to people who actually answer 911 calls.
In 2022, that number jumped to 22 vacancies. Given that 96 positions are considered a full staff, that’s a not-insignificant 23 percent of the required workforce not being staffed.
As a more recent KCUR report notes, this issue is not exclusive to Kansas City (and in fact, KC might actually be doing better than the rest of the country, which is a scary thought.)
April Heinze of the National Emergency Number Association told KCUR that, while there is no official national database tracking dispatch staffing, there is a 30 percent shortage, on average, across America.
“A lot of things we’re not perfect on, no doubt,” Lucas told KCUR. “But people waiting on hold on 911 gives our community grave concern.”
If Kansas City’s 911 dispatcher shortage is of “grave concern” to them, it should be raising the alarms for all police departments across the country.
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