‘You get a lot of burnout:’ Nationwide 911 dispatcher shortage has local agencies getting creative

Across the country, law enforcement and fire rescue agencies are experiencing a shortage of 911 dispatchers.


Between 2019 and 2022, one in four jobs at public safety communications centers were vacant, according to a recent report from the National Association of State 911 Administrators and the International Academies of Emergency Dispatch. Many agencies are working to address the issue by getting creative in their recruitment.

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“We’re only down two spots here at Nassau,” Lieutenant Brianna Goethe said. “I know other agencies unfortunately are suffering more than we are, but we’ve been there so I’ve seen it.”

Lieutenant Goethe said Nassau County gets between 10 and 15 calls an hour and having proper staffing is crucial. When she started as a dispatcher in 2013, she saw firsthand how a staffing shortage can have a dangerous impact.

“I remember I think I worked 14 days in a row and 12 hour shifts because we were just that short staffed,” Goethe said. “So, you get a lot of burn out, which is probably another reason that there’s so many shortages because this role has to be filled. So, we have to have people here.”

RELATED: Dispatcher shortage puts help on hold in Jacksonville; salaries increased

As the county’s population continues to grow with new developments being built, the Sheriff’s Office has partnered with the Nassau County School District to give juniors and seniors in high school an opportunity to start the process of becoming a 911 dispatcher.

“We wanted to try and get more applicants when we do have openings,” Sheriff Bill Leeper said. “We’ve seen a need where we can partner with the schools, kids that are interested.”

He said high school students can apply for the program and take classes part-time. Once they’re 18 and they pass a state exam, they can apply for the position.

“We think we can get ‘em young. Get ‘em interested,” Sheriff Leeper said. “[It] gives us an opportunity to allow them to help our community out.”

RELATED: ‘We are exhausted:’ Local police departments understaffed could put your safety in jeopardy

It could help in filling positions down the line as the dispatch center works to raise its minimum staffing. In October, it hired five dispatchers. This past Monday, four more were hired, and there are two positions still open.

“You have subdivisions everywhere you look. We have the west side growing up. They’re building out on 108, so that’s a lot of new citizens,” Goethe said. “We’ve gotta have people to take care of them.”

We reached out to our other agencies in Northeast Florida to inquire about any vacancies for dispatchers.

The Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department said it has no current openings, but it’s still accepting applications.

A spokesperson for the St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office said they are fully staffed right now.

READ: 911 call services went down in four states Wednesday night; restored for most now

“This fluctuates of course but we normally stay close to fully staffed on a regular basis,” a spokesperson said in emailed response. “We don’t experience a lot of the staffing shortages other areas of the state or nation experience due to competitive pay and benefits, brand new state of the art work environment and sign on bonuses up to $6,000.”

While the Sheriff’s office is fully staffed, it does accept applications to fill positions as they occur.

In a written statement the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office said it has positions available while offering an incentive.

“We currently have six available positions and are offering a hiring incentive up to $5,000 for Police Dispatchers, also known as a 9-1-1 Dispatcher and 9-1-1 Call Taker (civilian position).

Those interested may attend our one-hour Virtual Career Event Thursday, May 2, 2024, at 11:00 a.m. This event will have a panel of employees covering various topics including but not limited to the starting annual salary ($51,000), application process, and tuition reimbursement just to name a few.

To register for the event and learn more about the position your viewers may use the following link: https://tinyurl.com/wxrn76f3

To apply, they may start the process at www.JoinJSO.com

The Clay County Sheriff’s Office did not respond to our request for the number of dispatcher vacancies.

Action News Jax told you in May of last year when JSO was recruiting off-duty officers to help with its dispatcher shortage. At that time, our investigation found that the wait time for 911 pickup has doubled over the past couple years from about 10 seconds to nearly 22 seconds in April of 2023.

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