Waukesha County hiring 911 operators amid nationwide shortage

NOW: Waukesha County hiring 911 operators amid nationwide shortage

WAUKESHA COUNTY, Wis. (CBS 58) -- What would you do if you were placed on hold when you called 911 during an emergency?

Waukesha County 911 operators are trying to make sure that doesn't happen in the community they serve, as national employment struggles continue to have an impact locally. That could mean you have to wait longer for help.

Dan Szpek, Waukesha County 911 telecommunicator, said when they're short-staffed like they are now, they will answer your call ASAP, but there will be times when there is a wait.

"The same way a hospital might triage injuries, someone with a rolled ankle is going to sit in the ER longer than someone with difficulty breathing," said Szpek.

Waukesha County Emergency Preparedness Director Gary Bell said it means rough hours for people like Szpek as well.

"When we don't have somebody in that position, we're required to hold somebody over on overtime, so instead of your eight-hour shift, you'll be working 12 hours, and that becomes very burdensome," said Bell.

He said that's why they're looking to hire seven more 911 telecommunicators in the coming weeks.

"Teaching what 911 is really about, because we know it requires a servant leader's heart," said Bell.

Bell said the job, which starts at over $24 per hour, only requires a high school diploma or GED and one year of unrelated work with no conflicting felonies.

He said it makes a good first career where you do something important, as it was for Szpek nine years ago.

"Not a lot of jobs are really able to really say that I helped save someone's life or made someone's day better, so many jobs are about making money for someone, or selling products. Here it's about getting the right help to the right place," said Szpek.

Szpek said it also gives you a chance to potentially help save a life.

"We call it a lifesaver pin," said Szpek, showing a small, round, red pin. "Where I've done CPR over the phone with someone over the phone and that person made it."

Bell said to keep an eye out on the Waukesha County employment page in the coming weeks as seven positions will be posted.

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