Gem State Roundup

Kootenai County reduces public services amid 911 operator shortage

By: - August 1, 2022 4:10 am

The Kootenai County Sheriff's Office announced in a press release that its 911 center is at critical staffing levels and will shift non-emergency calls to voicemail for the time being to handle as many emergency calls in a timely manner as possible. (Anteia McCollum/Idaho Capital Sun)

The Kootenai County Sheriff’s Office announced in a press release Tuesday that its 911 center is at critical staffing levels and will shift non-emergency calls to voicemail for the time being to handle as many emergency calls in a timely manner as possible.

According to the release, the center is approved for 25 emergency communications officers and call takers, and the center is currently staffed with 11 workers. The 911 Center is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and serves Kootenai County residents and visitors along with 15 law enforcement and fire agencies. This includes 911 calls and text messages, non-emergency lines and several radio channels.

“Non-emergency calls are being sent to a phone tree where the caller can leave a voicemail. When time allows, the dispatchers will review the voicemails and enter calls for service based on the information received,” the release said. “Additionally, separate voicemail boxes have been established for animal control calls for both the city of Coeur d’Alene and Kootenai County Animal Control officers. Every effort will be made to answer emergency 911 calls in a timely manner.”

In 2021, the 911 Center answered 148,513 total incoming phone calls, the release said. Of those calls, 53,643 were 911 calls. The 911 Center also made 53,035 outgoing calls and entered 139,463 calls for service for the various agencies. In comparison, in 2020, there were 38,462 emergency calls answered in the center. So far in 2022, there have been over 17,000 emergency calls.

The Kootenai County board of commissioners approved a mid-year pay increase for emergency communication officers in an effort to recruit more workers, and negotiations are taking place through the budget process to fund additional pay increases for emergency communication officers and supervisors, according to the release. The starting wage for an emergency communication officer is $20.80.

Agencies across the country have reported 911 operator shortages in recent months, and companies in North Idaho have identified lack of available and affordable housing as a major contributor to an inability to recruit workers.

Those interested in applying to be an emergency communication officer or who would like more information about the job can visit the Kootenai County Sheriff website or call 208-446-1300.

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Kelcie Moseley-Morris
Kelcie Moseley-Morris

Kelcie Moseley-Morris is an award-winning journalist who has covered many topics across Idaho since 2011. She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Idaho and a master’s degree in public administration from Boise State University. Moseley-Morris started her journalism career at the Moscow-Pullman Daily News, followed by the Lewiston Tribune and the Idaho Press.

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