Everyone deals with work related stress, but some jobs take things to a different level. 911 dispatchers have to deal with traumatic situations on a regular basis, and most have to quickly transition from one to another without skipping a beat. Lives are depending on them dispatching the appropriate response as quickly as possible.
It can be exhausting. A video was recently released showing a Dallas, Texas dispatcher sleeping on the job. It was later discovered that the dispatcher was forced to work a 16 hour shift due to staffing shortages. News and law enforcement agencies believe the sleeping dispatcher was not the result of a lazy employee, but of poor administration and short staff.
According to Mike Multop, a retired dispatcher who worked at a dispatch center for more than 20 years, 16 hours is well beyond the norm. Multop shared with news outlets that the industry standard for most dispatchers is working an hour on and an hour off to counteract the extremely stressful job.
However, records from the Dallas dispatcher show that some employees went as long as four hours without taking a break on a regular basis. However, though the video brought attention to the issue, the shortage of dispatchers is not a new problem.
3 years prior, tired dispatchers were not alert enough to perceive the urgency in the voice of one of their callers. Instead of sending aid, they ended up recording her murder over the phone.
Richard Todd, head of the Fraternal Order of police in Dallas, believes the problem is a political one. The city has not been able to retain dispatchers or replace lost ones quickly enough largely because they lack the appropriate funding from the city to do so.
The lack of funding might be costing the city more than they’re saving by not funding more dispatchers. Many dispatchers are forced to work overtime hours. As a result, the police department reported paying out $500,000 to dispatchers and more than $1 million in overtime to 911 operators.
However, the fiscal burden is nothing compared to lost lives. If Dallas officials do not take the time to reevaluate their dispatcher program, the crisis will only continue to spiral out of control. Hopefully, the attention brought on by the shocking video will spur the people of Dallas to action.