Lancaster County 911 Center is facing a staffing shortage

MANHEIM, LANCASTER COUNTY, Pa. -- The Lancaster County 911 Center is facing a staffing shortage.

Multiple sources contacted FOX43 saying there is high turnover and forced overtime for some employees.

FOX43 reached out to 911 center about the issue, and a manager gave us a tour of the facility before he spoke with us on camera Wednesday morning.

FOX43 learned the 911 center is down 11 full-time staff and 10 part-timers. We also learned the same thing happened in the mid 90's: the ability to hire and retain dispatchers is made more difficult by a good economy.

At times, they're flooded with calls; dispatchers walk people through their medical emergencies, send officers to shootings, fires, and car accidents, and deal with accidental dials... among other responsibilities.

"You're certainly making an impact in people's lives at their worst possible moments," explained Timothy Baldwin, the deputy director. "What we're experiencing now - we're having radio dispatchers answer 911 calls because we don't necessarily have enough 911 call takers to keep the phones off of them while they do their normal work. [It's] still being handled. It just adds additional pressure."

Baldwin says the county faced a similar problem in the mid 1990's - a good economy which isn't always so good to some employers.

"There is plenty of jobs to be had, and that puts us in a situation where we're competing for employees," he explained.

For a lot of people, taking a job comes down to salary; Baldwin says Lancaster County 911 dispatchers start off at $13.65 an hour. They work 12 hour shifts, and many clock 84 hours in two weeks time.

He is grateful for the people pulling double-duty and all the staff who answer the call in Manheim.

"I can't speak highly enough about the staff here, and all the work they do, and they are truly not appreciated as they should be," added Baldwin.

The Lancaster County 911 Center is studying what dispatchers make in other counties similar in size. A post about hiring will go live on its website the end of July.

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