If you call 911 expecting them to pick up right away, don’t get your hopes up if you are in Philadelphia. The city has been suffering from a massive dispatcher staffing shortage, and it’s not just being felt by the dispatchers. City residents are taking notice too.
One business owner, Georgeanne Huff-Labovitz, who owns Marie Huff’s hair salon, called 911 for a client who was having a medical emergency. According to ABC6, the client was an 86 year old woman with a heart condition.
“I called 9-1-1 and it was about 25 rings and I’m thinking, ‘What is going on?’ It’s very scary, it’s a life or death situation. 911 should be there when we call.”Georgeanne Huff-Labovitz
The older woman was still dizzy, so Huff-Labovitz tried again, and the phone rang about 25 more times, she said. After a couple more tries, they finally got through, and the dispatchers sent firefighters and paramedics to the salon.
Police officials say they are getting more dispatchers into the call center, especially during busy times, with newly graduated dispatchers and 30 more in training. Former dispatchers say the shortage is due to “burnout, COVID-fuelled illness, and sky-high turnover.”
As first responders, they have been working hard throughout the pandemic, the political strife caused by the defund the police movement, and the loss of many of their fellow officers, some even working seven days straight. Dispatchers already have stressful jobs, and adding these additional stressors is enough to push them straight into burnout.