Understaffed Minneapolis 911 searching for new dispatchers, offering $1,000 signing bonus

The Minneapolis Emergency Call Center is understaffed and urgently hiring, and now offering a signing bonus with hopes of filling more than two dozen open positions.

The job is a way to give back to your community and get paid for it. 911 dispatcher Laurie Thomas-Neely is skilled at staying calm in a crisis, as she’s been on the job for nine years.  She says she loves it.

"I’m from north Minneapolis, so I get it I understand it, I’m here for the community, I represent the community," she explained. "For call takers and dispatchers, each day is different. There are definitely some adrenaline-pumping, emotional calls like shootings, but there's an excellent support system in place within the MECC, but outside there as well if needed."

Leticia Cardenas is an operations manager. "If it’s a huge event, we’ll have what’s called debriefing and that includes, police, fire, medical whoever assisted on that call and those responders only are allowed to go to it," she says.

There are currently 42 people working in the MECC, but there are supposed to be 69, and being 27 short is a lot. Employees are working overtime and on off days to try to cover the 1,800 calls a day that come in, which translates into about 600,000 calls a year. MECC Director Joni Hodne says of her staff, "They’re tired they’ve been carrying this load for a long time."

But it’s more than overworked staff, the community is also impacted by the shortage. The center is still within the industry standard of answering within fifteen seconds, but they’d like to do better than that.

"We would like to get back to where we’re answering those calls in six, seven seconds. Seconds can make a difference, and we want to get back to being one of the elite dispatch centers that has the ability to do that and be able to serve the public that way."

With that, MECC is urgently hiring those who have a high school degree or the equivalent. There’s a signing bonus, they pay you to train and you’ll be answering calls within three months. Despite the current challenges, all the women we spoke to today agree that the job is incredibly rewarding.

"You don’t always know the outcome of the call or if it’s even going to have a happy ending but at the end of the day you can leave knowing for sure you made a difference in someone’s life," Management Analyst Rachel Zempel said.

Starting pay for a MECC call taker is $23.86 an hour and can go up to $32.46 an hour. You are eligible for a promotion in two years to dispatcher at which time you can earn $25.86 an hour to $34.83 an hour.

There is a $1,000 hiring bonus and twelve weeks of paid parental leave.  You do need to know how to type at least 35 words a minute, but it’s suggested that can be easily done with free online typing aids. For more information click here.

There is also a recruitment event planned for Wednesday night from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at East Phillips Park, 2399 S 17th Avenue.