Minneapolis 911 call center faces ’emergency’ staffing shortage

A staffing shortage at the Minneapolis Emergency Communications Center (MECC) has reached an “emergency” level, according to city officials.

Jodi Hodne, the assistant director for the city’s 911 call center, told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS the MECC is facing a staffing shortage that reaches an “emergency” level as the agency heads into the high-call-volume summer months.

A current MECC employee said the staffing levels are considered among staff to be at a ‘crisis’ level.

The 911 employee, whose identity KSTP agreed to protect, said nearly every MECC dispatcher and 911 operator is working six or seven days a week, and it’s caused many employees to leave their jobs due to burnout.

“The staffing levels are dangerously low right now,” said the 911 employee. “Some calls are going into over ring, and some calls are being missed to the point where we have to call people back.”

The MECC staff member also told KSTP that the extra workload is taking a toll on the entire 911 staff, both physically and mentally.

“It’s really bad right now. People are tired. People are calling in sick, they’re burned out, morale is low,” said the 911 employee. “There’s a lot of complaining to upper management. We, unfortunately, have a lot of dispatchers who are getting so overworked that they’re falling asleep on the job, which is a threat to public safety.”

According to city records, the number of dispatchers and 911 operators is down from 65 in 2019 to 51 in 2022. That’s a 20% drop from the pre-pandemic years of 2020 and 2021.

Hodne acknowledged the MECC is understaffed right now, and it has been a contributing factor to many employees choosing to leave, but she disputed the center is missing 911 calls.

“We did go back and look at those numbers as well, you know, pulling the NINA standard right now, answering within 15 seconds, and we are still falling within that standard,” said Hodne.

A city spokesperson provided statistics comparing call answering times in May 2022 and May 2019, which shows the average time it took to answer a 911 call was the same in both years, at about 12 to 13 seconds.

Hodne said the city just reached a new labor agreement for dispatchers and 911 operators, and they just posted new job openings with higher pay and a thousand dollar bonus for those who accept and stay on the job.