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Pitkin County dispatchers overworked, under-appreciated

In the April 16 article “Pitkin County’s 911 center named best in state,” I really feel like the lead was buried. Yes, Sheriff Joe DiSalvo mentioned that the dispatchers were recognized as the best in the state, but to me, not nearly enough credit was given where it is due.

Pitkin County dispatch, as do most, if not all dispatch centers, chews up its staff and spits them out constantly. Based on the ads in the local papers, their office is in a perpetual rush to train up new hires as the turnover is shocking. The hours are long and stressful. Every emergency call weighs on these first responders and the effect is cumulative.

In a 2019 report, the Behavioral Insights Team & the University of California at Berkeley produced shocking results.

“Over 40 percent of 911 dispatchers exhibit high levels of burnout, more than double the burnout rate of employees in other fields. And, in addition to the public safety risk created by high turnover in emergency call centers, recruiting and training a new hire to replace the dispatchers who have left can cost a city tens of thousands of dollars, sometimes even in the hundreds of thousands range, per resignation.” (https://bit.ly/2XVNY0r)

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Pitkin county is better than most, in that they recognize dispatchers as first responders, but truly, we as a county need to do more to recognize and support these vital members of our county staff; they are vital members of our community, who often remain out of sight and out of mind for far too many of us.

While this recognition is certainly an achievement the county should be proud of, an opportunity was missed to really lay the praise where it belongs, not the programs or the technology, but the dispatchers themselves. To those working behind the scenes, thank you.

Quenton Cassidy

Snowmass


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