FAYETTE COUNTY (WOAY)- It’s perhaps one of the most stressful jobs there is, and that stress is the reason 911 operators are always in demand. Turnover is high because of the emotional situations these people hear every day. But as Newswatch Reporter Dylan Fearon learns, the job is still rewarding if you like to help people.
Emma Kelly takes about 200 phone calls everyday at the Fayette County 911 Center
“Either you like the job or you don’t,” Kelly said, who’s been an operator at the 911 Center for 16 years. “I like it because I help people. I like to help people.”
But there aren’t many people like Kelly, who can handle someone’s plea for help when they call 911. For that reason, there’s a shortage of 911 operators nationwide, including here in Southern West Virginia.
“If you cannot take stress than this job will not be a job you want to take,” 911 Center Director Kevin Walker said. “It takes a very special person to be 911 telecommunicator.”
“It’s redundant,” Kelly said. “It’s day after day, it’s emergencies after emergencies.”
But it’s not just the stress of the job that’s causing the national shortage. Kelly says it’s 12-hour shifts, missing time with family and never knowing how someone’s story ends one they hang up the phone.
“You can’t take the stress away from them with someone’s who on a suicide call and the last thing you hear is a gun shot go off while you’re on the phone,” Walker said.
“You just learn to not make friends, because they’re here one day and gone the next. We had someone come in and two hours later and say ‘I can’t take this,’ Kelly said.
Call centers like the one in Fayette County are always looking for new ways to attract help.
“People say ‘thank you for helping me,'” Kelly said. “Sometimes we do get that and that overrides that.”