23 May 2022
Durham, N.C. — The City of Durham is taking steps Monday to make sure someone is there to answer the phone quickly when people call 911.
As of May 16, the city is 10 dispatchers short, and Durham needs to hire more than a dozen call takers, dispatchers and shift supervisors for Durham’s 911 Center.
On Monday, Durham Technical Community College’s 911 academy will begin training dozens of people over the next two months.
The training academy will centralize efforts for Durham and Orange counties as trainees take courses in telecommunication and dispatching through lectures, hands-on experience and opportunities to participate in real-time scenarios.
The program will prepare students to apply for positions with the Durham 911 Center. The eight-week training academy accepts about 15 people at a time and will be available as long as agencies like Durham continue to need the support.
In the past year, WRAL News has extensively covered the staffing woes at the call center.
In August 2021, a woman told WRAL News she dialed 911 four times and waited at least 90 seconds for someone to pick up during a home invasion. By the time Durham police arrived and Benjamin emerged from her room, her purse was gone and the front door was wide open.
For months before that, the staffing shortage at Durham’s 911 Center led to delays in responding to emergency calls, and call handlers who told WRAL News that they are overworked and exhausted.
For a while, some emergency calls even had to be routed through the Wake-Raleigh 911 Center because Durham’s lacked the staff to handle the call volume. Despite their own staffing struggles, a handful of local firefighters continue to pitch in to fill the void when they can.
This year, 911 response has improved. In an email, a city spokesperson said, the goal is to get to 90% of the calls answered in 10 seconds or less. The training academy will help.