RANGELY | Emergency communication operators or 911 dispatchers are the voice in the darkness that gives hope to those who really need it. When citizens dial 911 in an emergency, they expect a fast response and a reassuring voice at the other end of the line. But 911 centers across the country are struggling to hire enough operators, slowing the time it takes to answer calls. While the crunch has been an issue for years, it has intensified over the past year or two as the nation’s low 3.8% unemployment rate increasingly spawns labor shortages across the economy. That makes 911 dispatcher positions, which can be highly stressful, especially tough to fill.
Rangely Police Department (RPD) has recently filled three open 911 dispatcher positions. The hiring of these dispatchers along with the help of the existing dispatch team has helped end the temporary closure of the Rangely Police Department Dispatch Center Monday-Wednesdays from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. which began Jan. 1, 2019. During this time the Rio Blanco Sheriff’s Office dispatched all the 911 calls for the Rangely area. Interim Rangely Police Department Chief Ti Hamblin says that returning all the local dispatch calls to the RPD Dispatch was in the best interest of the community. At the end of February, the three new dispatchers began their initial employment training. Zachery Bean, Cheyenne Steele and Jason Vanden Brink have been working on their three months of on-the-job training which along with taking calls also includes becoming first aid and CPR certified, public notary certified, Emergency Medical Dispatch and bail bonds trained.
All three of the new dispatchers graduated from the same Rangely Jr./Sr. High School class. However, each dispatcher is coming from widely different backgrounds. Steele was a stay-at-home mom to her two young sons. “I plan on making dispatch my career,” she said. Bean, a former local restaurant employee, states, “This is the first career level job that I’ve ever had and I can see myself making a career out of this opportunity.” Vanden Brink is currently a Rangely Fire Department volunteer and is in pursuit of an EMS certification. The three new dispatchers reported feeling well prepared for their duties as dispatchers due to the “outstanding” training they have been receiving. They’re loving the job so far and enjoy learning and working with veteran dispatchers.
Steele and Bean were both surprised by how much dispatchers assist the community aside from their 911 dispatching. They assist with VIN inspections, notarizing documents and answering callers questions and helping callers with referrals to other local agencies.
“It feels nice to help the community,” Vanden Brink said.
“They have been doing an excellent job and it is nice to have hometown people in this position who know the community,” Hamblin said.
By ROXIE FROMANG | Special to the Herald Times