The 911 communication centers in the Denver metro responsible for taking emergency calls and dispatching police, firefighters and paramedics are struggling to recruit and retain workers amid a tight labor market that has made hiring difficult in many industries, leaders of five of the area’s largest centers said.
The lack of workers means 911 callers in many of Denver’s largest communities are waiting longer before connecting with a call taker, thus delaying the arrival of help. Leaders from four of the five agencies, which cover a broad swath of the metro area, said wait times have increased in 2021 due to a lack of employees.
Vacancy rates at five of the largest communications centers in the Denver metro range between 15% and 42% and leaders from each agency — the Adams County Communication Center, Arapahoe County Sheriff’s Office 911 Communications, Aurora 911, Denver 911 and Jefferson County Communications Center — said they were struggling to recruit for the demanding job.
“How do we compete with so many available jobs right now that are not shift work, that are not 24/7, 365 days a year?” said Tina Buneta, director of Aurora’s public safety communications department.
Call takers and dispatchers are often leaving the industry for better pay or more regular schedules that don’t include weekends and holidays, 911 directors said. Others are looking for a less stressful job that doesn’t involve helping people navigate shootings, deaths and crashes.