EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) – El Paso 911 telecommunicators are dealing with employee shortages, with 911 call takers having to work overtime to ensure that the call center always has at least minimum staffing.

“Were also using our uniform personal on the fire and police department side to come in and work overtime so we can give a break to those telecommunications who are out there working,” said El Paso Assistant Fire Chief Jonathan Killings.

Officials say the goal is for 90 percent of all 911 calls to be answered within 10 seconds, but that if there is a high influx of calls you may hear this message.

“You have reached the El Paso 911 communications center, please remain on the line and the next available operator will assist you.”

However, Killings says that message is not due to the employee shortage as the staff is working overtime to fill the gaps.

“It’s very difficult, were struggling, we are, but again were all here as best as we can be, as fresh as we can be after so many double shifts, or so many long hours, so many weekends here but hopefully it’s getting better,” said Adriana Guillen, Public Safety Shift Manager.

Guillen has worked for the department for 10 years, telling KTSM she started as a 911 telecommunicator, saying this is one of the largest staffing shortages she has seen within the department.

“When you’re, holding we understand that seconds especially in an emergency situation can feel like minutes, can feel like hours and we are well aware of that. Just keep in mind that there is a group of people behind the scenes doing the best they can serving other callers, you know sometimes our lines are just inundated with calls…

Adriana GuillEn, Public Safety Shift Manager.

Assistant Chief Killings told KTSM 9 News that multiple factors are contributing to the shortage including a decline in interest in becoming a 911 call taker and COVID-19.

“Last year at the height of the pandemic, we had to cancel some telecommunicator training courses, the training to become a license telecommunicators last about 6 months, so when we canceled those classes it kind of put it behind the curb…” said Killings.

Killings does say that there are people currently training and that the City of El Paso did raise the pay for telecommunicators by 18 percent.

For local and breaking news, sports, weather alerts, video and more, download the FREE KTSM 9 News App from the Apple App Store or the Google Play Store.