DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) – On some shifts, Durham’s 911 call center only has two operators answering 911 calls, according to a Durham 911 dispatcher.
In a city where an average of two shooting incidents happens per day, a 911 operator told CBS 17 in an interview on Wednesday that it is frustrating and concerning.
“The stress levels and lack of time off, lack of time to decompress, means more mistakes, more errors,” said the anonymous 911 dispatcher.
As CBS 17 has been reporting for months, Durham is experiencing a shortage of 911 operators. The latest data show that out of Durham’s Emergency Communications Center’s (DECC) 64 positions, 26 of those are vacant.
The shortage of workers started in December, and that’s when Raleigh Wake Emergency Communications Center started answering some of Durham’s 911 calls.
Durham 911’s minimum staffing levels have dropped over the last couple of years, according to internal emails obtained by CBS 17. An email from April 2019 said that a minimum of eight personnel were required to work per shift. According to an email from May 2021, DECC now only requires four or five personnel per shift.
A 911 operator told CBS 17 that since two of those employees are required to serve as dispatchers, this may only leave two or three people to answer 911 calls per shift.
If a Durham 911 operator cannot answer within 30 seconds, it rolls over to Raleigh-Wake 911. Officials with Raleigh-Wake 911 said they answered 2,219 calls from Durham in December, 1,817 in January, 1,710 in February, 1,702 in March, and 1,985 in April.
This averages out to 1,887 calls per month that rollover to Raleigh from Durham.
Bo Ferguson, Durham’s Deputy City Manager, told CBS 17 in an email on Wednesday that they have hired seven new personnel since Dec. 1, 2020, but they have also had four employees who have left.
Ferguson said they have rehired four former employees in a part-time status to take calls, and that additional staff is being vetted for reemployment.
“We are committed to reducing the number of vacancies while maintaining high standards for training and developing new staff in the center,” Ferguson said.
CBS 17 reached out to other counties in the Triangle to see how their 911 staffing levels compare to Durham’s.
While only 59 percent of Durham 911’s positions are filled, Raleigh Wake 911 said 97 percent of their positions are filled.
Below are staffing levels at different emergency communication centers in counties across the Triangle:
911 operator positions filled
- Nash: 100%
- Wake: 97%
- Chatham: 95%
- Cumberland: 93%
- Person: 92%
- Johnston: 91%
- Halifax: 76%
- Durham: 59%