Severe shortage of Horry County 911 operators and dispatchers, directors say they need help

CONWAY, SC (WBTW) – Horry County is facing a shortage of 911 operators and dispatchers, and that could mean more wait time for you if you need help.

In Monday’s public safety meeting, Horry County 911 Communications Director Renee Hardwick told county leaders her department was short-staffed and they needed help.

“The standard is that we would answer 90% of our calls in 10 seconds or less, but we’re seeing that number increase because we have an increase in calls,” said Hardwick.

Tammy Sims has been with the department for 26 years, but like many in the field, she’s burned out.

“If I was hired 26 years ago today, I probably wouldn’t have stayed because it looks like more than what you can do,” said Sims.

With a starting salary of $31,000, dispatchers say it’s not the pay or the benefits that keep people from applying.

“When I go to sleep at night, I don’t forget it. I talk about it in my sleep, I keep my husband awake. So, it does have a lot of weight, it varies. It’s a heavy burden,” said Sims.

Because of the shortage, the operators will get around 300 calls in a 12-hour-shift, and that means one person is doing multiple jobs.

“When you have multiple calls going on that you’re dispatching police or fire for, now you’re trying to answer a 911 call and you’re trying to give CPR instructions and you’re trying to get that medic unit to that cardiac arrest, it can become a lot more difficult,” said dispatcher Alan Washburn.

The department currently has ten open positions, but Hardwick says they can’t find anyone to fill the jobs.

“We call and offer somebody a job and they don’t want to move or they don’t want to take it for whatever reason, and we can’t make people work here, we’re not trying. We want people who want to work,” said Hardwick.

Right now, Hardwick says they’re working as hard as they can to hire people, and encourage any and all with a high school diploma or GED to apply.



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