Kootenai County cuts utility services due to shortage of 911 operators

The Kootenai County Sheriff’s Office announced in a news release Tuesday that its 911 center is at critical staffing levels and will be transferring non-emergency calls to voicemail for the time being to handle as many emergency calls. in a timely manner as possible.

According to the release, the center is approved for 25 emergency communication workers and call takers, and the center is currently staffed with 11 workers. The 911 center is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week and serves Kootenai County residents and visitors as well as 15 law enforcement and fire departments. This includes calls and texts to 911, non-emergency lines and several radio channels.

“Non-emergency calls are sent to a telephone tree where the caller can leave a voicemail. When time permits, dispatchers will review voicemails and enter service calls based on information received,” the statement read. “In addition, separate voicemail boxes have been created for animal control calls for animal control officers in the City of Coeur d’Alene and Kootenai County. Every effort will be made to respond to calls from 911 emergency in a timely manner.

In 2021, the 911 Center answered 148,513 total incoming phone calls, according to the statement. Of these calls, 53,643 were 911 calls. The 911 Center also made 53,035 outgoing calls and entered 139,463 service calls for the various agencies. By comparison, in 2020, 38,462 emergency calls were answered at the center. So far in 2022, there have been over 17,000 emergency calls.

The Kootenai County Board of Commissioners approved a mid-year pay raise for emergency communications officers in a bid to recruit more workers, and negotiations are underway through the budget process to fund additional pay increases for emergency communications officers and supervisors, according to the statement. . The starting salary for an Emergency Communications Officer is $20.80.

Agencies across the country have reported shortages of 911 operators in recent months, and businesses in northern Idaho have identified the lack of available and affordable housing as a major contributor to the inability to recruit workers. .

Those interested in applying to become an emergency communications officer or want more information about the position can visit the Kootenai County Sheriff’s website or call 208-446-1300.

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