Dispatch Staffing: One Size Does Not Fit All
Determining emergency communications center staffing is a difficult problem to solve. How many call-takers do I need? Dispatchers? What about supervisors, particularly if some cover a console and others do not? Who takes care of the seemingly never-ending “other duties” that get lumped into the dispatch center like jail watch, front desk, or late night calls to closed departments? And if you work in a dispatch center that services multiple agencies, well, your questions have just multiplied.
While there are a number of industry standards that can help guide your decision-making, the fact is that there is no simple formula that can be applied universally. What may work next door may be completely impractical in your center. The key to determining the “correct” number of resources is to develop a process that takes into account your stakeholders’ needs and expectations.
Get input from your stakeholders: frontline end users, supervisors, field personnel, fire/law enforcement executives. Learn about their needs. Learn what they expect.
Do your research: It may be helpful to benchmark other dispatch centers to understand staffing models at comparable centers. Various online staffing models may provide a good starting point from a quantitative perspective.
Run multiple staffing models: A simple sensitivity analysis can tell you how your staffing needs will change a other variables like call volume, talk time, and answering time increase and decrease
Garner feedback: Stakeholders will no doubt have thoughts on your models. Don't be afraid to share preliminary findings before settling on a desired outcome.
Most importantly of all, be willing to make adjustments. What makes sense in a brainstorming workshop doesn’t always make sense in the real world (hello budget constraints!).
The bottom line is that there is no simple formula to determine how your center should be staffed. But if you follow an inclusive process that continually garners feedback from your stakeholders and takes into account your unique variables, you’ll find the right solution.
How is your dispatch center staffed? Is your center struggling to find the optimal number of employees? What is your preferred model? We would love to talk. Please reach out at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.