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Austin 911 dispatchers still experiencing a shortage while taking COVID-19 calls on top of daily emergencies

The Austin Police Department is still in need of 28 dispatchers to help fill the shortage while taking an influx of pandemic related calls.

With emergencies at a constant on top of a pandemic, Austin dispatchers and 911 operators have certainly been feeling the impact of an ongoing staff shortage.

"It's challenging to operate so under-staffed under normal circumstances, but a prolonged crisis like this has really been very draining on everybody here I think," said Gary Elmore, police communications supervisor with Austin Police Department. 

Elmore has been with Austin dispatch for 12 years and oversees the night shift. He told KVUE the department has 28 spots to fill on the floor. 

"Which requires us to use overtime to fill those gaps from the can and get creative with how we do our rosters," said Elmore.

For COVID-related calls, he told KVUE that people will call 911 daily to report people not wearing masks or neighbors gathering. 

They're also getting an influx of mental health calls. 

"We started a mental health program. We have a trained mental health person in house for most of the day, so if we have someone who is suicidal or contemplating hurting themselves, we can transfer them to her," said Elmore.

It's just not the APD having to get creative with taking on COVID-19 calls. Austin Travis County Emergency Medical Center also told KVUE it launched a new COVID Clinical Console Line. 

"That allows us to channel those calls and callers over to additional medics who can do additional straining and provide information and guidance. We may be able to set up an online doctors visit," said Public Information Officer Darren Noak.

Noak said while a lot of COVID-related concerns can be addressed with a local physician, if it's a life-or-death emergency, you should still call 911. 


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