Survey Finds 9-1-1 Call Centers Experiencing Staffing Shortages, Technology Gaps

The second annual NENA Pulse of 9-1-1 Survey found many call centers have outdated technology and are struggling to hire and retain workers.
Published: May 30, 2024

ALEXANDRIA, Va. — The National Emergency Number Association (NENA), also known as the 9-1-1 Association, recently announced the findings of its second annual Pulse of 9-1-1 State of the Industry Survey.

The survey, conducted by NENA in partnership with cloud-native emergency call management provider Carbyne provides insights into the ongoing challenges faced by emergency communications centers (ECCs) and 9-1-1 professionals across North America.

This year’s survey delves into the “domino effects” of staffing shortages, technological gaps and wellness and mental health impacts, according to the association announcement.

“There is an undeniable strain on the people who are the first first responders in public safety, the human voice on the line in a time of crisis,” said Brian Fontes, CEO of NENA, in the announcement. “Severe staffing challenges are continuing in 9-1-1, from difficulties in hiring new personnel to problems with employee retention and a mature workforce that shows signs of stress and burnout.

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“We can and must do better for the people of 9-1-1, who do so much for us,” he added.

Despite the high stress and staffing challenges, an overwhelming 87% of respondents said they “love” or “like” their jobs.

More 2024 NENA Pulse of 9-1-1 Survey Key Findings

Other key findings from the second annual Pulse of 9-1-1 Survey include:

  • Staffing: 75% of ECCs lack the necessary budget to expand their workforce, exacerbating the strain on existing staff. Eighty-two percent of centers with the means to hire are encountering difficulties in filling vacancies, and 50% of trainees fail to complete the probationary period.
  • Technology: Outdated technology remains a significant challenge. More than three-quarters of ECCs have experienced service outages that impeded calls. Fewer than 27% can communicate over text messaging services. Only 24% can accept incident imagery, such as live video.
  • Mental Health and Wellness: ECC personnel continue to grapple with stress and burnout, with various coping mechanisms employed to manage the pressures of the job. The survey underscores the importance of prioritizing mental health support for emergency telecommunicators.

“The overwhelming response to the Pulse Survey reveals the critical state of the 9-1-1 industry,” said Amir Elichai, CEO of Carbyne, in the announcement. “We can and must do better. This invaluable data paints a clear picture of the key challenges in 9-1-1 and the areas needing immediate attention to ensure the resilience and efficiency of emergency communications.”

Carbyne conducted the second annual survey in February 2024. With a 36% increase in participation from the 2023 survey, totaling 1,335 responses, this year’s survey “delved deeper into staffing, technology, training, mental health, and diversity within emergency communications centers across North America,” the announcement said.

The 52-question survey coincided with National 9-1-1 Education Month and National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week. Respondents included telecommunicators, dispatchers, supervisors, IT managers, and leaders from across the United States.

This article originally appeared in CS’ sister publication Security Sales & Integration and has been edited.

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