Raleigh-Wake 911 answers nearly 1,900 calls per month from Durham as city faces operator shortage
DURHAM, North Carolina (WNCN) – On some shifts, the Durham 911 call center has only two operators answering 911 calls, according to a Durham 911 dispatcher.
In a city where an average of two shootings occur a day, a 911 operator told CBS 17 in an interview on Wednesday that it was frustrating and disturbing.
“The stress level and the lack of free time, the lack of time to decompress, means more mistakes, more mistakes,” said the anonymous 911 dispatcher.
As CBS 17 has been reporting for months, Durham is experiencing a shortage of 911 operators. The latest data shows that of the 64 positions at Durham’s Emergency Communications Center (DECC), 26 are vacant.
The worker shortage began in December, and that’s when the Raleigh Wake Emergency Communications Center began responding to some of Durham’s 911 calls.
Durham 911 minimum staffing levels have declined over the past two years, according to internal emails obtained by CBS 17. An email from April 2019 indicated that at least eight staff were required to work per shift. According to an email from May 2021, DECC now only requires four or five staff members per shift.
A 911 operator told CBS 17 that since two of those employees are required to serve as dispatchers, this can only leave two or three people to answer 911 calls per shift.
If a Durham 911 operator cannot answer within 30 seconds, they will switch to Raleigh-Wake 911. Raleigh-Wake 911 officials said they answered 2,219 calls from Durham in December, 1,817 in January, 1,710 in February, 1,702 in March and 1,985 in April.
This represents an average of 1,887 calls per month that are transferred to Raleigh from Durham.
Bo Ferguson, Deputy City Manager for Durham, told CBS 17 in an email on Wednesday that they had hired seven new employees since December 1, 2020, but also had four employees who had left.
Ferguson said they had rehired four former part-time employees to take calls, and additional staff were being considered for rehiring.
“We are committed to reducing the number of vacancies while maintaining high standards of training and developing new employees in the center,” Ferguson said.
CBS 17 has reached out to other counties in the Triangle to see how their 911 numbers compare to those in Durham.
While only 59% of Durham 911 positions are filled, Raleigh Wake 911 said 97% of their positions are filled.
Below are the staffing levels at various emergency communication centers in Triangle counties:
911 operator positions filled
- Nash: 100%
- Awakening: 97%
- Chatham: 95%
- Cumberland: 93%
- Individual: 92%
- Johnston: 91%
- Halifax: 76%
- Durham: 59%