DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) – When you call 911 in Durham, there’s a chance there won’t be enough operators at the Durham Emergency Communications Center (DECC) to answer your call.
When no one answers a call within 30 seconds, it is routed to Raleigh-Wake 911. An average of 1,900 calls are forwarded from Durham every month.
The DECC has faced facing a shortage of 911 operators since December. Now, during some shifts, there are only two people answering calls at a time. Currently, the DECC has 26 vacant 911 operator positions out of 64, which means 41 percent of the positions are vacant.
Durham Deputy City Manager Bo Ferguson said people have left Durham’s 911 call center for a variety of different reasons.
“We’ve had two people go to other 911 centers. We have had one person retire for health reasons, and we’ve had another person leave for personal reasons,” Ferguson said. “It’s our goal and it’s our objective to fill these vacancies.”
Ferguson said this week the city is posting four positions for certified training operators who will be able to take calls, dispatch, and assist with training new employees.
CBS 17 asked Ferguson on Friday why these positions were not already posted to their website since they have been short-staffed since December.
“The answer to that question is when we have a training academy, that’s when we have posted the position,” Ferguson said.
Ferguson said currently they only have two full time employees on staff who can train new 911 operators.
Ferguson said this means they can only put four people in academies at a time. He said they should be able to do five academies this year.
If you do the math and multiply the four employees by five academies, this means they could hire and train a total of 20 employees within the next year.
Since Durham needs to fill 26 positions, it could take more than a year for them to be fully staffed again.
Meanwhile, in Raleigh, Emergency Communications Director Dominick Nutter said they are able to train 12 to 15 people in an academy at a time.
Ferguson said once Durham fills these four certified training operator positions that will be posted this week, the city will be able to increase the number of employees they train at a time.
But even with those additional employees, Ferguson said it is still hard to know when the city’s 911 call center will be fully staffed again.
“There’s a lot of factors that can affect that,” Ferguson said. “I don’t want to give some date and time where I think we’ll arrive there. But I am confident that we’ll continue to make progress filling the vacancies.”
One of the four certified training operator positions was posted to the city’s website on Monday and the other positions will be posted this week.