Raleigh County 911 Center responds to policy concerns - WVVA TV Bluefield Beckley WV News, Weather and Sports

Raleigh County 911 Center responds to policy concerns

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BEAVER, W.Va. (WVVA) Leaders at the Raleigh County 911 Center responded Thursday to a growing controversy between the agency and some firefighters over one of the center's hiring policies. The requirement prevents first responders from being employed as dispatchers.

Several volunteer fire chiefs called on the center to abandon the policy Wednesday, arguing that hiring more first responders as dispatchers would improve the 911 center's understanding of ground conditions, as well as their response time. 

The Raleigh County 911 Center's Dir. John Zilinski responded to the concernsThursday, saying the requirement is a state law that is designed to ensure the agency has an adequate amount of dispatchers to serve the region's 89,000 residents. 

"During the daytime, that number could spike to 200,000 people. A lot of traffic comes through Raleigh County. If we're short on dispatchers, that would hurt the public. That's why we keep a full staff on at all times so we have the ability to move up dispatchers."

State code mandates that firefighters and other first responders have several hours between shifts after responding to a fire. To meet that requirement and employ firefighters, Zilinski said it would mean putting the 911 center at risk of not having enough dispatchers to cover calls. 

He also explained that dispatchers follow strict protocols and undergo extensive training, including 40 hours required by state code, 32 hours of emergency medical dispatch training, and more than six months of intense supervision. 

Zilinski said the 911 center  has a sit-a-long program for certain individuals to see what it is like in the day of a dispatcher. He invites any first responder to participate. 

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