How do you take care of the staffing issues at the Lake County E-911 Center? As a retired police officer and a one time dispatcher, allow me to offer some advice.
First, you need to treat dispatching as a profession.
Second, you need to work with Ivy Tech Community College to offer a certificate in emergency dispatching through their SPEA program.
At present, most dispatchers had to pay for their own class in Emergency Medical Dispatching from a company called National Academy of Emergency Medical Dispatch. If Ivy Tech was teaching this course, it could be paid for by the use of a Pell Grant. Let's remember that state law requires dispatchers giving out medical advice be certified as an emergency medical dispatcher.
Third, a course run by Ivy Tech could include other aspects of the profession like emergency management, first aid, computer courses and classes in cultural diversity. I understand that some 911 managers like to run their own training programs to increase their budgets and to offer some select employees a straight day job, but we need to be forward thinking.
High school students who are seniors could easily be trained at Ivy Tech as part of a dual credit course. These seniors would be hired after completing the course as call takers at a beginning pay rate of $19/hour, which equals $39,520 per year. These call takers would work an eight hour shift, 40 hours per week, which would be an incentive for them. The limited hours gives them time to continue their education if they want to, and by guaranteeing a 40 hour work week, you will not have the burnout of 12 hour shifts.
Lastly, you need to increase the pay scale for your dispatchers. Their base pay should start at $50,000 per year, which is around $24.50 per hour. Offering a higher wage will draw experienced dispatchers to Lake County, especially if they know that overtime will be limited; with limited overtime, you save funds in the long run.
Thomas Ostrowski, Crown Point