Fairbanks Emergency Call Center still faces low staffing levels

Published: Nov. 3, 2023 at 9:26 AM AKDT
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - The Fairbanks Emergency Call Center is a vital part of community safety and security. When you dial 911, you can be confident someone will pick up the phone and be ready to connect you to the help you need.

The Emergency Call Center dispatchers are the ones who are able to send the police, firefighters or ambulances straight to you. However, not all the desks are full.

The number of staff at the call center hit a “bare-bones” low during the pandemic. Today the staff count is up to 11, which includes trainees and part-timers. The ideal number is 16. This has led to constant overtime. The short staff has not changed the number of people answering the phones, just the number of hours those people are working.

“I personally believe it’s one of the most important jobs there can be,” explained Kristi Merideth, the Fairbanks Emergency Call Center supervisor. “I mean, if you don’t have us you’re not going to get any police assistance, fire assistance or medical assistance. We are the ones who are sending the help to you and we provide the help before they get there.”

“It’s very stressful,” Merideth added, “but it’s a very rewarding job at the same time. We all love our job. We love to help people. We love being the one that somebody needs. Either the public needs us or the first responders need us and we are able to get them the assistance they need.”

“If anybody wants to see what we do, they can have the opportunity to come and see before they apply. You’ll sit with a dispatcher for like an hour and see how everything goes,” Merideth said. “You do the same job every day, but it’s not really the same job because you never know what you’re going to get. We don’t know if somebody’s delivering a baby, if somebody’s house is on fire, we don’t know. I’ve had a little girl call me and she was so happy her parents were making cookies with her.”

According to Merideth, there are currently no applicants to fill the five empty positions at the Call Center, which include dispatchers and supervisors.

For more information about the call center or to pick up an application, visit their website.