Resolving the Current 911 Staffing Crisis Requires Creative Thinking
Posted on September 15, 2022 by Bonnie Maney
Arguably the most severe challenge impacting emergency communications centers (ECCs) today concerns a nationwide personnel shortage that has reached a crisis stage. Numerous factors are contributing to the crisis, including funding shortfalls, a lack of recognition for telecommunicators, a incredibly stressful work environment, the negative impacts of social media, old-school recruiting and hiring practices, and a large number of retirements.The deficit has created pressures for ECC directors and managers to cover shifts and additional stresses for 911 telecommunicators. Due to personnel shortages, many telecommunicators often are forced into working mandatory overtime to cover personnel gaps or unable to take time off when needed or desired — which has a detrimental effect on their health and well-being and increases the risk of errors.
MCP addresses the crisis in its recently published Model for Advancing Public Safety® (MAPS®) Analysis and Insights 2022 report. MAPS® is a proprietary assessment methodology developed by MCP that is based on is based on industry standards, best practices in addition to the collective expertise of the firm’s subject-matter expert. The report is based on hundreds of assessments of client technologies and operations using the methodology. It contains chapters on land mobile radio, geographic information systems, Next Generation 911 readiness, ECC operations, staffing, security and data integration.
The following factors are explored in the staffing chapter:
- Shift configuration
- Leadership and planning
- Management and organizational structure
The phrase “think outside the box” may seem hackneyed, but according to the findings contained in the staffing chapter, that’s exactly what ECCs need to do to start resolving the crisis. Some of the solutions identified include:
- Hire a recruiter dedicated to the center or outsource the function to an organization that understands the ECC environment.
- If possible, hire an HR professional who is dedicated to the ECC.
- Leverage nationally accepted screening and testing tools, within the industry, and CliftonStrengths and Topgrading from outside the industry.
- Find a balance between the behavioral and skills aspects of the vetting process.
- Break up the training regimen — teach and then allow the trainees to practice what they learned — rinse and repeat for each element of the curriculum.
- Said another way, let them drink from a garden hose versus a fire hose — doing this will increase retention and keep their interest.
- Conduct “stay” interviews to discover why personnel are choosing to continue their employment; such interviews are every bit as important, or even more important, than exit interviews; at that point it is too late.
- Find ways of doing more of what is learned during stay interviews.
- When promoting personnel into leadership or supervisory roles, assess for the attributes needed for their new positions — don’t promote based solely on their past performance as telecommunicators; again, the CliftonStrengths and Topgrading tools would be excellent in this regard.
- Develop policies and standard operating procedures if they don’t exist; if they do, review and update them regularly
This chapter contains many more useful insights. If you’re interested in purchasing a copy of the report, send an email to MCPMarketing@MissionCriticalPartners.com
Bonnie Maney is MCP’s operations domain manager and a senior consultant. Email her at BonnieManey@MissionCriticalPartners.com.