Durham 911 call center employee says staffing shortage affects morale, service

Durham County News

DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) — In an emergency seconds matter, and that’s why CBS 17 has continued to follow up on staffing shortages at the Durham 911 call center.

It’s led Raleigh’s center to answer some of those calls. An employee at the Durham center said it is hurting morale and the quality of the service they provide. We’re not identifying them and altering their voice.

Longer shifts with no breaks, being called in on your days off, that’s what this employee said has become the norm.

“The stress levels and lack of time off, lack of time to decompress means more mistakes, more errors. You have to think critically as a call taker and a dispatcher,” they said.

CBS 17 first started reporting on staffing shortages at the Durham 911 center in December.

City leaders confirmed a COVID-19 outbreak meant Raleigh would be taking some of their calls. That help continues.

As of last week, Durham was supposed to have 60 employees trained to answer calls.

They have 26 vacancies.

“Delayed time in answering the call because there’s less people to take the call so people are waiting longer,” the employee explained is what this shortage has meant.

After calling and emailing the director of the center, Randy Beeman, CBS 17 stopped by. He was unavailable.

Perhaps more concerning, the center has lowered its minimum staffing levels.

CBS 17 obtained internal emails that show they require four or five personnel on shifts. Compare that to an internal email from back in April 2019. It had been eight and before that nine or 10.

“Two people are always dispatching and not taking any calls and so anybody that remains in excess of that would be people answering the 911 calls,” that employee said.

That means they could have just two or three people to answer calls on a shift.

CBS 17 showed those documents to Councilman Mark-Anthony Middleton.

“I don’t think those numbers should be interpreted that a determination has been made that we don’t need the staffing. That’s what happens when your staffing situation and you have to adjust,” Middleton said.

The City said no one was available Wednesday for an interview.

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