Amid critical 911 operator shortage, metro Atlanta county begins offering incentives
COBB COUNTY, Ga. - The 911 call centers across the nation have been scrambling to find operators. In the Atlanta metro area, there’s certainly been no exception.
"There’s a lot of emotion that comes with being the first of the first responders," said Melissa Alterio, director of Cobb County’s 911 center. "It’s definitely not a job for everybody."
Alterio said that her call center has about 25 empty spots right now, on top of already being understaffed about another 40 positions.
She said the result is pushing current operators into overdrive, causing more overtime, sick leave, stress, and burnout.
"Breaks become minimal, lunch break sometimes had to have been eliminated altogether," Alterio said.
That’s why Alterio asked the Cobb County Board of Commissioners to create incentives – not only in hopes of recruiting new operators – but also rewarding those who have stayed. The board approved the measure unanimously last week.
With the new incentive, 911 operators with Cobb County will get a $2,500 bonus paid out in increments over the next 10-12 months.
"It’s to show the existing employees how much we value them and are grateful for the hard work and the fact that they’re working so much overtime," Alterio said.
For new employees, the hiring incentive is $1,500 for non-POST certified Emergency Communications Officers and $2,000 for POST-certified Emergency Communications Officers.
There are a few other qualifications a successful candidate should have, she said.
Multitasking in a stressful environment is big, she said. One of the most important qualities is empathy while speaking to people who are often experiencing the worst days of their lives.
Information on how to apply is on the county’s website: https://www.cobbcounty.org/public-safety/911/employment
On Saturday, Nov. 20, Alterio said they are hosting a recruiting event at the Cobb County Safety Village at 1120 Al Bishop Dr. in Marietta between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
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