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Counties throughout region struggle with staffing inside 911 centers

Working in any 911 center is tough work. It’s stressful, equally important, and work that takes a toll on those who do it over a career.

That said, it’s among the most-rewarding work one could find in public service.

Dispatch centers across the U.S. are struggling to fill seats, though.

Taylor Militello has been working at the Cayuga County 911 Center for about 7 months. She said she took the job because she wanted to help people. She spoke to CNYCentral about her experience.

“You’re the person that they want to know knows what they’re doing and knows that somebody’s coming and you’re getting help that way and they’re expecting you to know what you’re doing so you just have to stay calm,” Taylor said.

They found that 911 centers throughout the region are short-staffed. In smaller counties, they are also underpaid. It means those who do work in these dispatch centers end up being overworked.

Denise Spingler is the 911 administrator with Cayuga County. She told CNYCentral that, “It’s very atypical for 911 centers to be fully staffed. It’s not a job that anyone can do. The training period is anywhere from 4 to 6 months and the turnover from training is probably 50 percent.”

For comparison, in the last 14 years that she has been with Cayuga County – Spingler can recall approximately 12-months total time, where the department was fully-staffed.

Some counties have found that adequate pay is a way to navigate shortages in 911 centers.

Reporting indicates that starting salaries are around $39,000 in Wayne, but in Cayuga approaches $46,000. Meanwhile, Cortland County saw staffing issues when dispatchers were making $15.87 an hour, but when that number increased to $21.72 positions filled up.