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Labor Shortage affecting 911 operation centers in Hampton Roads

There is a shortage of 911 dispatchers and call takers. Many Hampton Roads cities are down more than 10 workers.

CHESAPEAKE, Va. — Emergency dispatchers help people through some of their worst moments. 

Call takers say it’s a thankless job that comes with a ton of pressure and stress. Now, the stress is even higher because they don’t have enough people to answer your 911 calls. 

“I really do wish that we had more people, but at the same time I understand that it’s a very stressful job and sometimes, and you know, it’s just not a job for everyone,” explained Rita Rountree, who takes public safety telecommunication calls. 

Rountree said she’s helped people through emergency situations for the past 16 years. She said it’s a job that fulfills her passion. Rountree provides a calm voice to whoever is on the other end of the line.

"You have to love the job in order to do it and you have to be a person who cares about people to do it," she said.

Chesapeake is currently down about two dozen 911 dispatchers and call takers.

“We currently have 22 vacancies and right now we have a staff of 36,” said Chesapeake Dispatch Supervisor Linda Porter.

Porter said she and her employees are working twelve-hour shifts plus having to work mandatory overtime to keep up with the demand.

“It’s stressful at times, because again with all that mandatory overtime we’re tired, we’re exhausted, but we do get our job done as far as far as ya know, working,” she explained. “We are unseen, so nobody knows how tired we are, but we have to get the calls out of the citizens.”

RELATED: Why do we call police? | An analysis of 911 calls in Hampton Roads

Chesapeake isn’t the only city seeing a shortage of 911 dispatchers and call takers.

  • Norfolk: 16 vacancies
  • Hampton: 14 vacancies
  • Suffolk: 10 vacancies and one supervisor position
  • Newport News: 2 vacancies
  • Portsmouth: 7 vacancies

13News Now is still waiting to hear back from Virginia Beach.

"We are the first person that takes that call to talk to that person and talk to that citizen who needs the help, and we send out that police, fire, that medic to them," Porter siad.

Porter said all those vacancies in Chesapeake could impact how long people wait on hold after dialing 911. She asks people to be as patient as they can.

“If they do call and they don’t get an answer, don’t hang up because that next person will answer,” she said.

Rountree said she’ll be ready to answer and provide that calm voice on the other end of the line.

If you’re interested in applying to become a 911 dispatcher or call taker, the details are below.

To apply for a position with Chesapeake, click here.

To apply for a position with Norfolk, click here.

To apply for a position with Hampton, click here.

To apply for a position with Suffolk, click here.

To apply for a position with Newport News, click here.

To apply for a position with Portsmouth, click here.