ALLEN COUNTY, Ind. (WANE) — Things are different now at the 9-1-1 call center.
A new focus group that meets bi-weekly is giving call takers and dispatchers hope that city officials are listening. It also allows them to speak with management about their concerns.
And a new system to train new hires first as call takers, then as dispatchers instead of throwing everything into the mix at once may help in retention of workers, David Bubb, Consolidated Communications Partnership Executive Director, explained to the board.
“Communications is what we do, but we’re not always the best at it,” Bubb told the board.
Relations between dispatchers and Bubb have been at loggerheads, starting shortly after his arrival about three years ago.
A tweet scandal earlier this year involving deputy dispatcher John Chavez and the firing in February of long-time dispatcher Eric Veatch led to dispatchers voicing their ire publicly.
The new system set into place will allow people to train as call takers only and Bubb says some people never want to leave that position, even though it’s very stressful.
Bubb has a class of eight to 10 trainees coming in January who will be in the old training system; in February, he hopes with the same number, the new system will be in place, he said.
Meanwhile, numbers supplied to WANE 15 at the Dispatch meeting Tuesday afternoon don’t look so healthy.
Fully staffed, there should be 76 on the dispatch staff. Information indicates there are 49 as of Tuesday’s meeting. Six people are currently in training and there are 11 vacancies.
Last month, there were 55 dispatchers, indicating six more left in one month. Board attorney John Feighner said the board is working to get some of those dispatchers back into the department.
Bubb has justified these lower numbers in comparison to other departments across the country where the attrition rate is worse. He knows of one department that is working only a third staffed.
Nancy Burton, a dispatcher for 25 years, spoke at the November meeting and criticized the atmosphere at the dispatch center, describing it as “the most stressful and disheartening as I’ve ever seen.”
When the CCP was created in 2010 and the city and county dispatch centers merged, dispatchers felt isolated from the public safety community, she said.
Tuesday, Burton was the only dispatcher to speak among a half dozen who came to the meeting.
“I thank you for listening,” Burton told the board, consisting of Steve Reed, the Fort Wayne police chief; Rich Beck, county commissioner and Eric Lahey, Fort Wayne fire chief. Allen County Sheriff David Gladieux was unable to attend the meeting.
“The fire department and police department have been talking to us about what our concerns are,” Burton said, adding that any positive changes at dispatch “will make it better for your officer on the other end.”