MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (WBTW) — Horry County 911 telecommunicators are experiencing an increasingly large call volume, which are expected to only go up as more people move to the area on top of growing public safety departments.
“The phones rarely stop ringing. There are seven radios that we manage 24/7. Four of those being dedicated law enforcement and three dedicated fire rescue,” said Horry County 911 director Renee Hardwick.
Due to a staffing shortage, anyone who calls will get a message saying they’ve reached 911 and to stay on the line. That message will soon go away. The department hired 22 new telecommunicators.
“I have to tell you, this is not the norm. I have to give props to our county council and to administration for making this happen for us because it’s long overdue, but it’s necessary,” Hardwick said.
Horry County Council approved new positions in its latest budget. A telecommunicators’ salary starts at $32,000and it costs $60,000 to get each person trained.
The new employees will officially start Sept. 20, but it will take an additional 10 to 12 weeks for training.
“We have four shifts, we got 20 people, that’s five more people on the shift. It’ll allow us some room to get the phones answered faster and also expand our radio part of things,” Hardwick said.
Hardwick said while there are some long-term employees, the average employee has just under two years of experience.
“It’s a very hard job. It’s stressful physically and mentally. Some people want to move on to other things and then some just get burned out, unfortunately. That’s part of being the public safety,” Harwick said.
Hardwick said another contributing factor is workload. She admits staff has been overworked for a while having to take on extra shifts but says the new hires will help, and help the call for public service.
“There’s no greater feeling than knowing you’ve helped somebody get help at the worst time of their life,” Hardwick said.
Hardwick said they are having an issue with not enough training space and will split the new hires into two groups. The department will move into the county’s new emergency operations center once it’s up and running. They will be equipped with more space and upgraded communications technology.
Once Horry County 911 moves into the new EOC its current facility will become 911’s backup center.