New training to address 911 dispatcher shortage

PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. - When you call 911, you expect help immediately. Yet, across the country, several of the critical call taker jobs are vacant. 

911 dispatchers have arguably the most important jobs. They take 911 calls and get help to you in an emergency, but it can be a stressful and difficult position. 

Pinellas County, and several places around the country, consistently have open 911 dispatcher positions. 

The nationwide shortage of 911 dispatchers has now jump started a new program at St. Petersburg College to train 911 dispatchers. This not only will help fill all the vacancies but help 911 dispatchers get the right training to help you in your most crucial moments. The training involves 80 hours of time spent with current dispatchers, 52 hours of face-to-face training and 100 hours of online training. 

Classes at St Pete College will start January 22.

Pinellas County 911 dispatchers say it’s more crucial then over to fill vacant positions. They answer 750,000 emergency calls and 1.2 million total calls a year. 911 calls have spiked. Emergency calls have continued to grow 7-8 percent every year. 

Pinellas County currently has 19 open dispatcher positions, 15 of which were recently created because of the increase in 911 calls.

It was a 911 dispatcher that helped Charles Price in the scariest moment of his life. The dispatcher encouraged him to stay calm and hopeful in the moments after his mom had a stroke.

“She kept telling me my mom would make it through this. She had to remind me to breathe,” he reminisced.

It’s a call he credits with giving him 6 more years with his mother. “I would have lost my mom right then and there.”

911 dispatch training manager Jeff Pearson, knows how stressful the position can be, but that’s what also makes it rewarding. “I gave CPR instructions to a 2-year-old over the phone. At the end of the day, she was talking to her grandmother. Her grandmother made it. That was a wow moment,” Pearson added.

Elli Childs agrees, “knowing you have touched someone simply by answering the phone in their time of need.”

Childs hopes the new St Pete College Program will pave the way for more people to save countless lives, like she has. “I can end my career knowing I made a difference.”

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