INDIANAPOLIS, Ind.-- Officials with the Marion County 911 Dispatch Center say there is a nationwide shortage of 911 operators, a problem that is causing employees at their call center to pick up extra shifts.
The Marion County 911 Dispatch Center currently houses both IFD and Marion County Sheriff's Emergency Communications Centers, serving nearly all of Marion County.
Sherry Taylor, the IFD Communications Center Manager, says they are currently understaffed.
“We average 500-600 calls a day and that’s with a staff at maximum capacity," said Taylor. "We are short-staffed which is a problem that the 911 industry is facing nationally.”
On any given day, operators at the Dispatch Center are the first line of communication during a crisis situation, assisting hundreds of callers and providing life-saving instructions over the phone.
Taylor says there's a strong need for people willing to make that type of work commitment.
“There’s been a lot of discussion about the change of the population’s work-life balance and in a job like this, it really requires a commitment," Taylor said. "We can’t regulate when an emergency comes in. A lot of people are willing to make that sacrifice and others are not."
Jackie Boone is a certified training officer with IFD Communications. She's been an emergency dispatcher for almost nine years.
“It is very rewarding to know that you are helping people," Boone said. "Working here, it’s fulfilling. I love what I do.”
In 2017, IFD Communications answered more than 178,000 calls and dispatched more than 169,000 incidents.
Boone says she feels the effects of the shortage of 911 operators.
“We do what we need to do to cover the shifts and we do what we can, but at times we could be working a lot of hours and a lot of days," Boone said.
Boone is encouraging others looking for a fulfilling and meaningful job to consider a career in emergency communications.
"I love helping people," said Boone. "If you want to help people and love helping people, then this is probably the job for you.”
IFD currently has 34 dispatchers that process all emergency and non-emergency requests in regards to any Fire and EMS needs. Employees work across four shifts, 12 hours each.
“Generally the people that do well in this really have a desire, an innate desire to want to help people," Taylor said. "Although you might not be able to be a firefighter or an EMT, this is one of those careers where you impact lives on a daily basis.”
To learn more about applying to become a 911 dispatcher, click here.