Push continues for 911 operators in Milwaukee as application deadline looms

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MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- During the pandemic we've seen many industries put out a call for more workers.

Few are as urgent as the need for more 911 operators right here in Milwaukee.

Better efficiency, and some stress relieved.

This is what the future looks like inside Milwaukee's emergency call center with a full staff of 911 telecommunicators.

"Every time I answer the phone, somebody's life is on the line," said lead dispatcher Jasmine Salley.

Salley does both jobs of answering calls and dispatching service.

Short-staffing has meant she and her colleagues must work mandated overtime at a moment's notice.

"And you're forced to work a 16-hour day, back-to-back. So knowing that I am able to leave at the end of my shift is a great stress relief," Salley said.

The city of Milwaukee increased the starting annual pay for 911 dispatchers to more than $55,000 for non-residents, and more than $57,000 for residents.

"Everyone that works in dispatch, they're dedicated already, and that's why they're here. They've been waiting a long time for the monetary compensation," Dr. Jeffrey Madison, Information Technology, said.

Right now, the fire and police departments are separate communication units.

The Milwaukee Police Department has about 20 positions to fill.

Milwaukee Fire is at half-staff, with about 12 telecommunicators and new hires coming in.       

Fire Chief Aaron Lipski hopes the new salary, and the merger of the two units, attracts those who want to help.

"Is an enormous, enormous investment and statement of solidarity for the very, very difficult and often thankless and unrecognized work that goes on here," Lipski said.

The application process closes April 1.

Bilingual applicants are strongly encouraged to apply.

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