Monday, November 20, 2017

Dispatchers Deal With High Stress

Volusia, Flagler emergency dispatchers cope with long hours, low pay, high turnover


News Journal Online
Matt Bruce
November 19, 2017
“They have to be the voice that re-introduces some level of calmness and assurance into what is often a very difficult situation for the people who are calling,” said John Balloni, director of the Communications Center in Volusia County. “People are screaming at them, they’re swearing at them, and they’re upset. We teach them, yes, that’s all going to happen to you, but your job is still to be that voice of calm and reason, assure them that help is on the way.”
About half of Volusia County’s new dispatchers quit during their first year on the job, while nearly a third of Flagler’s recruits resign.
They serve as a bridge between crisis and intervention in a job that often requires them to hear the worst of humanity. Each day a legion of 9-1-1 dispatchers in Flagler and Volusia counties handle thousands of calls that can range in urgency from routine to catastrophic.
“They are the unsung heroes of all law enforcement and first responders,” Flagler County Sheriff Rick Staly said. “Not only are they the voice of the Sheriff’s Office, but they also help protect our deputies.”
The U.S. Bureau of Labor rates emergency dispatching as one of the country’s most stressful professions, a fact that plays a role both near and far. About half of Volusia County’s new dispatchers quit during their first year on the job while nearly a third of Flagler’s recruits resign, officials said.
High turnover rates and staffing shortages at dispatch centers are a nationwide issue as agencies across the country struggle to find qualified call takers who can maintain their composure through intense trauma.