Dispatch center works to resolve staff issues

Employees work extra hours to provide 911 emergency services



An employee for the Whitcom Regional Dispatch Center in Pullman works to answer 911 emergency calls and dispatches public safety first responders via radio.

ANDREA GONZALEZ, Evergreen reporter

Employees at the emergency 911 dispatch call center in Pullman are working to address staff shortages the center is facing.

Tara Murker, executive director for Whitcom Regional Dispatch Center, said it is common for 911 dispatch call centers across the nation to struggle with staffing.

It is very rare that a dispatch call center is fully staffed, so when it is fully staffed, it is only for a short period of time, Murker said.

A full staff for Whitcom would be 22 people, but there are around 11 full-time employees, one part-time and three trainees, she said.

Whitcom still provides services for the community, so they will not be affected by the staff shortages, Murker said. The staff shortages affect the staff because they are working overtime to provide services.

Adam Lincoln, board chair for Whitcom, said the center has always dealt with fluctuation in staffing levels.

Murker said that being a 911 dispatcher is a tough job to get because there are a lot of qualifications that people must meet such as passing psychological, drug, vision and hearing tests.

Lincoln said the requirements needed to work as a 911 dispatcher are to have a high school diploma, no felony convictions and be at least 18 years old. He said other requirements also include being able to type 50 words per minute, pass written, computerized and polygraph tests.

The job involves high levels of emotional stress, he said.

Both the police department and fire department are aware of the staff shortage situation that Whitcom is going through, Lincoln said.

They are trying to do their part to take on more of the workload regarding dispatch services, he said.

The police and fire departments are making sure that anything that can be handled administratively to do much of that as they can within their own departments instead of asking Whitcom to handle that for them, Lincoln said.

Murker has been working with other local agencies to try to add additional temporary support, which has helped bolster the staff shortage numbers, he said.