Del. has ‘critical’ need for 911 dispatchers

The state’s top homeland security official says there’s a critical staffing shortage in Delaware’s 911 centers and wants to hire a dozen new dispatchers.

State Homeland Security Secretary Lewis Schiliro says there’s been a 40 percent increase in 911 calls for service but there has not been an increase in the number of dispatchers since 1996.

“It’s a critical function and there’s no room for mistakes,” Schiliro said. “We want to make sure that we’re in a position to meet that demand.”

Schiliro says while the number of dispatchers hasn’t changed in 15 years, something else has; technology. Schiliro says 75 percent of incoming calls are from cell phones, and it’s meant a dramatic increase in the volume of calls.

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“Years ago when you had an accident you may have received one or two call reporting the accident,” he said. “Now you could literally receive 50 or 60, because everybody that passes by makes a call.”

Schiliro says all those calls still have to be answered to determine if they’re from the same accident.

“The technology is changing and I think now we’re in a position where we really do need to bring some additional people on board,” Schiliro said. “One, to alleviate the stress of our current dispatchers, but two, more importantly, is we really have to change as the technology changes.”

Schiliro says his department has been operating at a salary surplus and expects to be able to make the new hires without having to cut elsewhere.

The department is requesting $154 million as part of Schiliro’s fiscal year 2012 budget request before the Joint Finance Committee.

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