NBC 10 I-Team Exclusive: New numbers show E-911 staffing shortage, overtime costs

New numbers confirm what the NBC 10 I-Team first reported: Rhode Island’s E-911 Center is seriously understaffed, down by at least 10 employees. (WJAR)

New numbers confirm what the NBC 10 I-Team first reported: Rhode Island’s E-911 Center is seriously understaffed.

Rhode Island’s E-911 Center, where telecommunicators answer every 911 call in the state, is budgeted for 47 full-time employees in the 2017-2018 budget, already three fewer employees than in prior budget years.

But the I-Team learned only 37 people are actually working, as open jobs have gone unfilled for months.

The result is that the state has already burned through the entire E-911 overtime budget for the 2018 fiscal year, more than $170,000. Another $115,000 has now been granted to cover ongoing overtime costs through June.

Working as much as 60 hours each week in an already stressful job may be taking its toll on E-911 staffers.

Two employees were taken to the hospital by ambulance from the call center in February. One remains out of work. Rhode Island State Police confirmed the two employees were taken to the hospital, but declined to comment further due to privacy concerns.

Gov. Gina Raimondo has promised help is on the way, and four new employees started last week. But NBC 10 confirmed one of those new employees has already quit.

The good news for E-911 staffers is that Rhode Island State Police have been authorized to fill the empty positions.

“We are pleased to report that Governor Raimondo has authorized the Department of Public Safety to fill all remaining vacancies for telecommunicator positions in the E-911 communications center, effective immediately,” Col. Ann Assumpico told NBC 10 in an emailed statement. “This is welcome news, especially given the recent departure of several people under the state’s early retirement incentive program. We have already begun recruiting potential candidates with the goal of having those positions filled as quickly as possible.”

Training each new telecommunicator can take up to six months, meaning the new hires won’t be answering phones anytime soon.

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