911 Dispatch Staffing Issues Unique Term Paper

Pages: 7 (1821 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: ≈ 4  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Business - Management

911 Dispatch Staffing

Staffing Issues Unique to the 911 Dispatch Career

This paper presents an examination of staffing concerns and practices in the field of emergency management. The writer explores the staffing models and uses frequently used in the staffing of 911 dispatchers throughout the nation. The paper addresses the concept of Workforce 2010 and how it can be applied to this topic. There were three sources used to complete this paper.

One of the most difficult tasks that any employer faces is that of staffing. Businesses cannot operate efficiently until they are properly staffed and the staff is properly trained for the position that they are expected to fulfill. While businesses can face hardships including loss of revenue if they are not properly staffed there is another field in which a lack of proper staffing can spell disaster including loss of property and human life. The staffing needs and issues surrounding 911 dispatch personnel can create public safety concerns, which is why it is vitally important to keep constant watch over the staffing needs of public safety departments.

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Workforce 2010 means different things to different areas of the world but for the most part it is a concept that was recently developed to discuss and determine what the changing personnel needs will be for the first 10 years of the new mileninium. In short, the concept has to do with globalization, the importance of retention of work staff and the cost and factors of training those staff members which makes it important to retain them. In the field of public safety the need for trained and qualified emergency management/911 dispatch personnel cannot be underscored enough as members of this team are responsible for the very safety and well being of the community that they serve. It is important to use appropriate staffing models and directives to fill the positions as well as be sure the proper training and retention incentives are in place.

Term Paper on 911 Dispatch Staffing Issues Unique to the Assignment

Case Study recent study about the recruitment and retention of public employees in the commonwealth of Pennsylvania was recently conducted, an area in which there is 75,000 state or government employees. Of those many of them are 911 dispatch personnel (Helton, 2004).

One of the problems with the staffing and retention of 911 dispatch operators is the fact that they are highly trained and if there is a frequent turnover rate there is a problem with being able to maintain consistently highly trained personnel to handle the calls as they come in.

Workforce planning through a workforce 2010 plan is essential to thwart a bottle neck work stoppage or lack of trained 911 dispatches during the next few years, as baby boomers retire and younger workers move up through the ranks (Helton, 2004).

While the labor pool and general population are aging, people are working longer, living longer and enjoying much healthier lives. Conversely, the birthrate is at an historic low. "The Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that while the youngest workers (ages 16 to 24 years old) are increasing by 15%, this decade will also witness the 25 to 34-year-old baby boomers' children entrance into the workforce at just half that rate. The employable workforce population between 35 and 44 years of age is actually declining (Helton, 2004), as the overall national rate of workforce growth faces a sharp drop. After peaking at nearly 30% in the 1970s (as the baby boomers as well as unprecedented numbers of women entered the workforce), and holding relatively steady at 12% during the 1990s and again in the present decade, the rate is projected to drop and level off at 2% to 3% per decade thereafter (Helton, 2004). This translates into an annual growth rate of less than 1% today and an anemic.2% by 2020. (Helton, 2004)"

This is critical information with regard to the staffing of 911 dispatch personnel because it provides a hint of a future employee shortage that must be anticipated and planned for.

When examining the needs and Workforce 2010 issues in the field of public safety, it is important to remember the unique issues that are brought to this field. It has long been known that 911/public safety dispatchers are under a high amount of stress during their daily duties. They are responsible for dispatching ambulances, police and fire personnel to the correct address, at the right time and a failure in their communication efforts on any part of the call could potentially lead to loss of property or life (Helton, 2004).

In Barry Furey's article regarding the center staffing issues of 911 Furey explores the staffing issues that have been plaguing the field in recent years (Furey, 2005).

He states: Adequate staffing has long been a fire service concern. Whether it involves the number of career firefighters assigned to ladder and engine companies, or the ability of suburban and rural communities to recruit adequate numbers of volunteers to provide protection, having enough people to do the job is a universal issue (Furey, 2005)."

For at least the past decade, a lack of personnel has also had a significant, but many times less publicly visible, impact on emergency communications centers as well, adding to rapid burnout of dispatchers and creating the potential for delayed alarms. Throughout North America, public safety agencies report continuing shortages in telecommunicators. One department responding to a survey conducted by this author advised that while its authorized strength was 14 dispatchers, it was working with five. Further, it went on to report that it had been short by at least 50% for the last six years (Furey, 2005). "

The shortage of emergency management dispatch operators has been a national problem for the past several years. Research has indicated that the problems are caused by several factors including stress, long hours and training required to be able to do the job. In addition there are often issues with the common rotating of the shifts that is often experienced in the field with the dispatcher working a different shift every few weeks.

This creates problems for family life, continuing education desires and other things that require a steady and dependable schedule for working hours.

A shortage in this field can have devastating results. " Where there are more phones to answer than people to answer them, somebody is going to have to wait. and, the fewer people there are to answer, the longer that wait is going to be (Furey, 2005). "

Many larger telecommunications organizations recognize staffing as a critical issue and have taken steps to address it. In 2001, the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials (APCO) created "Project RETAINS" (Responsive Efforts to Address Integral Needs in Staffing) (Furey, 2005).

Some of the reasons listed for dispatchers abandoning their positions include the desire to take uniformed positions as police officers or fire personnel, stress of the dispatch position and problems with the rotating schedule that they work.

Retention of 911 dispatch personnel is going to become even more essential as a worker shortage is experienced in upcoming years.

The Solution

There are several things that can be done to help recruit and retain personnel members for the position of 911 dispatchers.

The first thing that must happen is that the recruiting measures must weed out those who will most likely only stay a short while and be gone.

This may involve the implementation of a personality test that will determine how well a person works under pressure and stress, and how committed they will be to a career once they enter it and receive the training to go with it.

Another " typical problem is lack of compensation. Historically, dispatch positions have been classified at lower grades than first responders (Furey, 2005). While you'll find little argument that the salaries of field personnel should reflect the dangers faced, communications has evolved into a technically demanding profession that requires the possession of skill sets not needed in the past (Furey, 2005). Unfortunately, many individuals who possess these necessary attributes find more lucrative jobs in the private sector (Furey, 2005). This is especially true with the proliferation of corporate call centers that handle nationwide requests for insurance, banking, hotel and service needs (Furey, 2005)."

Furey reports that providing better compensation will be a key factor to the recruitment and retention of 911 dispatch personnel members (Furey, 2005).

Until such time as dispatch is thought of as a career and not a temporary job, the cycle may never be broken (Furey, 2005). And until such time as issues like retirement systems, work hours, recognition and career opportunity are adequately addressed, this probably won't happen. While your body doesn't get the physical abuse of "eating smoke," there is really not much glamour in answering a 911 call at 3 o'clock on a Sunday morning when you're 65 years old and have been doing it for 40 years (Furey, 2005).

Another problem in staffing in the field of 911 dispatch personnel is the training involved. Staffing and training in this specialized field can take… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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