New state campaign aims to ease shortage of public safety dispatchers

While many local law enforcement agencies have been dealing with staffing shortages, so too have the departments that relay information about incidents to law enforcement officers.

The Minnesota Department of Public Safety (DPS) says that issue isn’t exclusive to the state, it’s a country-wide problem. However, DPS is now trying to help ease the burden locally.

DPS says its Emergency Communication Networks (ECN) division recently partnered with the Minnesota Sheriffs’ Association to launch a new campaign about the shortage of public safety telecommunicators (PSTs), also known as 911 dispatchers.

The campaign features digital advertisements, videos, stories, billboards, public service announcements and a dedicated website encouraging potential candidates to apply.

“Unless you see what our PSTs go through on a daily basis, you can’t fully grasp the depth of their composure, their compassion and their bravery,” ECN Director Dana Wahlberg said. “You’d also miss out on seeing their satisfaction when they help their neighbors, save a life, and bond with their colleagues. That’s why we’re encouraging anyone interested in becoming a PST to sit in on a shift and see for themselves what the position entails.”

RELATED: Minneapolis 911 staffing levels improve, response times still below national standards

Dispatchers are a critical part of the emergency response process. DPS notes that when someone calls 911, it’s usually during one of their worst moments. A dispatcher can help calm the caller, give directions to provide immediate aid and then send the proper professionals to help.

However, with the shortage of dispatchers, officials say current employees are having to take on heavier workloads, which adds to their stress levels and impacts their service to the community.

“Dispatchers are on the front lines of an emergency when someone calls or texts 911 for help. While they are unseen, they are saving lives, right alongside those first responders on the scene,” Wahlberg added. “They have skillsets and training that enable them to notice subtleties during a call that could mean the difference between life and death. It’s a stressful job, but vital for helping Minnesotans through every emergency every day.”

During the campaign, state and local officials are asking Minnesotans to consider if they could help serve the community by applying to be a 911 dispatcher.

“These are talented, but regular people doing extraordinary things. The ability to be extraordinary could be inside of you too just waiting to appear as a part of our team,” said Benton County Sheriff Troy Heck. “I ask that you take a moment to learn more about a PST career and picture yourself doing extraordinary things with us each day.”

“Our public safety telecommunicators are immersed in the latest technology, skilled in communicating, and masters of multi-tasking. They form a deeply connected team who work to better their communities, bring peace in times of chaos, and save lives,” Heck added.

More information about the 911 dispatchers is available online. Those interested in applying can also do so at that same link.