E-911 Dispatch Center goes dark

Published 4:14 pm Tuesday, February 13, 2024

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GATESVILLE – Staffing shortages have led Gates County officials to transfer the operation of its E911 service to Perquimans County.

The transfer took place on Friday of last week (Feb. 9).

Gates County Sheriff Ray Campbell said there would be no negative impact on the services emergency responders provide to Gates County.

“It’s the same as always, if you dial 9-1-1 for assistance a person will answer your call and dispatch your call for service swiftly,” Campbell said. “Perquimans County Emergency Services is more than capable of providing the outstanding services you expect and deserve.”

Campbell noted that the move became necessary when the Gates County dispatch center fell out of compliance with the North Carolina E911 Board. He said recent resignations among the county’s E911 dispatchers, to include its director, had whittled the staff down to just five part-time employees. Meanwhile, the only full-time dispatcher remaining is currently out on medical leave until Feb. 20.

“There were three applications [for jobs as dispatchers] made in January, but those applications were never forwarded to me by the E911 Director,” said Campbell. “I didn’t become aware of those applications until they [applicants] called me to check on the status of possibly being hired.”

He added that the state requires two dispatchers per shift.

“We were down to one per shift, so we’re out of compliance there as well,” Campbell noted. “And with just five part-time employees, it’s impossible to schedule them to work in shifts without putting a lot of stress on them. Our dispatch center was operating ‘round the clock, seven days a week.”

Additionally, the State E911 Board found the Gates County dispatch center out of compliance due to incomplete paperwork. Campbell said a binder kept in the dispatch center, one that tracks the number and reason for emergency calls plus required documentation regarding the upkeep/maintenance of all of the E911 equipment, was empty.

“None of that required paperwork was in the binder,” Campbell said. “Because of that, plus the lack of staff, we were out of compliance with the state. That left us with no other choice but to ask Perquimans County to take our emergency calls and dispatch our emergency responders.”

Campbell added that the move has placed a strain on Perquimans County Emergency Services as they have rearranged the shifts of their dispatchers to handle their regular calls plus the ones coming in for Gates County.

“They are some great people to work with,” Campbell said of the Perquimans County E911 staff. “Everything has been smooth thus far. They haven’t missed any of our calls. As a matter of fact, their staff professionally handled two recent calls asking for Gates County emergency responders to provide mutual aid for calls coming from Hertford County and from Suffolk.”

When asked when, or if, Gates County E911 dispatch would return to Gatesville, Campbell said he wasn’t sure.

“The state is putting a lot of pressure on us to put together a long range plan,” he said. “That has to start with getting dispatchers hired and properly trained, so that will take some time.”

This marks the second time in a little over two years that Gates County has transferred its E911 calls to Perquimans County. The first came in December 2021 after the Gates County system experienced equipment malfunction and a shortage of staff. County officials announced on Feb. 16, 2022 that their E911 system would be operational in Gatesville the next day with a full staff (seven full-time and eight part-time dispatchers).

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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