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Shortage of 911 dispatchers sparks big pay increase in Rutherford County

Metro 911 call center
Posted at 3:16 PM, Jul 06, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-06 22:42:49-04

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. (WTVF)  — What if no one answers?

A shortage of 911 dispatchers is a growing concern in counties across Tennessee.

And that shortage is sparking a large pay increase.

Hoping to find new hires, authorities in Rutherford County are boosting salaries for a job critical to public safety.

Chief Rutherford County Sheriff's Deputy Keith Lowery said there is a serious shortage of 911 dispatchers, and those on the job are forced to pick up the slack.

"All of them — everyone working here is working overtime right now."

Jenny Mathias is one of 17 dispatchers currently on staff.

They handle up to 3,000 emergency calls a month.

And, the office is currently seven dispatchers short of what's needed.

"I work channel one, so I get all the patrol units working traffic saturation right now," said Mathias.

Of course, 911 dispatchers are crucial to a quick response to emergencies.

"If they don't respond to that call then no one else is coming — not a fire truck, ambulance or police car coming," said Lowery.

The Rutherford County Sheriff — now like so many others across the state — is advertising for those interested in a stable job with good benefits.

They'll train you and they have increased everyone's pay by 20%.

Starting salaries for full-time dispatchers across the state are going up. In Rutherford County, you'll start at $43,800 a year.

If you are wondering what happens when a 911 dispatch center gets overwhelmed with calls, there are fail-safes built in where a flood of emergency calls are forwarded to other locations to help dispatch the call.

But that is the last resort.

If you are interested in becoming a dispatcher, contact your local sheriff's office.