Ingham County faces ‘critical’ understaffing in 911 centers

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A worker shortage in Ingham’s 911 center is at a crisis point, warned County Controller Tom Dolehanty.

“We really are reaching that point where something must be done,” Dolehanty told Democratic commissioners at their Sept. 26 caucus. “There are no two ways about it.” 

Dolehanty said finding quality candidates has been the biggest roadblock. Some applicants are unable to pass the initial background check, and many who do pass find the workload and job requirements too taxing.

Prospective employees must be able to type about  100 words per minute and this can narrow a field of 20 trainees to just one.

Mason resident John Rasmussen said, “If our 911 centers don’t have enough first responders, that could be another person that doesn’t receive the proper help. That could be the difference between life and death.”

Rasmussen noted that a 911 call saved his mother’s life in the ’90s after she had a stroke at home.

“Without the proper number of people there, who knows what would have happened with my mom?”

Dolehanty noted during the meeting that while the Call Dispatch Center  is separately funded, it still pays around $1 million a year just for overtime. About 20 percent of the 911 employees get half that money each year, he said.

Sheila Ross, also of Mason, worried that her family may be affected by a change in staffing.

“My dad, bless his heart, has the potential to have something happen to him at any moment,” Ross said. “I don’t know what happens to him if something happens and the call centers have trouble picking up.”

On the center’s website, the link to apply for employment opportunities is at the bottom of the page. Much of the discussion around the meeting centered on potential outreach methods for the CDC to expand their message, including billboards flown at Michigan State football games.

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