Dispatching police officers, firefighters and medics to emergencies is one of the most important jobs in any city. However, getting those workers in Abilene to stick around may be just as difficult as the job itself.
In 2012, the turnover rate for Abilene dispatchers was 26 percent.
Communications Manager Wayne Brandt said several things can account for the rate, noting it is often difficult for dispatchers to adjust to shift-based work.
“The most senior people here get to pick their shifts first and the most junior get to pick what's left and they'll typically remain on one of the night shifts anywhere from five to 10 years before there's a day shift available,” Brandt said.
The minimum number of dispatchers per shift is five during the day, six in the evenings and five during the midnight shifts.
“We're here 24 hours a day, seven days a week,” Brandt said. “There's got to be minimal staffing here during holidays, weekends, summertime – doesn't matter – we got to be here.”
Brandt said it is also challenging for dispatchers to remain calm during 911 calls and also realize they will not always find out the outcome of those calls.
“You really have to have some sense of duty and some sense of dedication to enjoy this kind of work and if somebody's just looking for a paycheck and not really caring about what their duties are then they're probably not going to enjoy it and they're probably not going to be successful,” Brandt said.
As of Friday, 10 new dispatchers are undergoing training. Brandt said it takes approximately six months to train each hire.
Brandt said he expects to lose as many as six dispatchers by July.
In 2012, Abilene dispatchers answered approximately 280 9-1-1 calls per day for a total of 79,161 calls. Their busiest hours are between 2 and 4 p.m. and July 4 is their busiest day.