GR dispatch is hiring: ‘A job that’s meaningful’

911 dispatchers. (File)

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Are you ready to answer the call? The Grand Rapids 911 Call Center is hiring.

City of Grand Rapids Communications Manager Karen Chadwick said the 911 center is looking to add two or three emergency communications operators to its full-time staff of 36. Five part-time positions are also open.

“You’re on the phone, you’re on the radio, you’re typing, you’re looking at other screens, so it’s a lot of multitasking. We want accuracy and speed,” Chadwick said. “It’s not constantly always the same thing. And if that’s what you’re looking for for a job, this would be it.”

Full-time dispatchers work three 12-hour shifts and one six-hour shift a week with a two-week rotation. They have every other weekend off. Pay ranges between $40,900 and $52,000 per year.

The job can be intense. In 2016, the 911 center handled 156,603 emergency calls. And on July 7 of this year, when a strong thunderstorm ripped through West Michigan, the 911 center got 421 emergency calls in just six and a half hours.

Dispatchers may be juggling multiple calls at a time, relaying information to police and fire crews simultaneously. They have to handle tough calls from people going to through some of the worst experiences of their lives.

“We have quite a bit of stress management training and stress resilience training and … how to deal with these customers that are very upset, so we will train them to all of that,” Chadwick said. “But you do have to have some intestinal fortitude, for sure, because some of the calls are pretty tough.”

That’s why she says the job isn’t for everyone.

Emergency communications operator Mike Dekam has been the voice on the line of 22 years.

“We all have those calls that we’ll never forget,” he said.

Sometimes have horrible outcomes. Dekam said it’s important to not get overwhelmed by tragedy.

“I’d say it’s just a matter of perspective,” he said. “We also have calls we don’t forget because the outcome is so great.”

Emergency communications operators are charged with a responsibility to help the community, which Dekam said that’s the most gratifying part.

“It’s rewarding. You work with good people. You’re doing a job that’s meaningful,” Dekam said.

Dekam says the stress is worth it.

“When people call 911, there’s an expectation that someone’s going to be there to answer the call who’s trained and knowledgeable and the city can’t let that chair go unfilled,” Dekam said.

You can apply on the city’s website. The application period closes Aug. 14, after which there will be testing, background checks and interviews through December. The new dispatchers should be on the job by January 2018.

Questions about applying and the hiring process can be directed to Alexandria Polk-Lewis in human resources via email at or by phone at 616.456.3656.