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Project RETAINS: Next Gen Study at a Glance

Call center characteristics and trends

  • Total 9-1-1 emergency call volume in 2007 ranged from zero to about 1.3 million calls, with an average of about 53,000.
  • Meeting authorized staffing levels appears to be a more substantial challenge for large and medium centers.
  • Overtime is voluntary in about one-quarter of centers and mandatory in about one-quarter of centers.

Employee and job characteristics and trends

  • Civilian/sworn status: Most of manager/director respondents to the center director survey indicated that they were civilians (59%).
  • Years of service:  Center directors/managers indicated an average of 14 years of service in their communications centers.
  • Schedule: The most common type of schedule is permanent assignment (41%), followed by rotation by bid (28%).

Retention and turnover rates

  • Turnover Trends: Fifty-six percent indicated that employee retention has decreased over the past three years, 23 percent indicated that retention remained the same and 22 percent said that retention had increased.
  • Retention rates increase as the hourly pay rate for new hires increases.
  • Because of their smaller size, small and medium size agencies appear to be vulnerable to low retention rates in a given year because a few separations can have a dramatic impact on the retention rate.

Predicting organizational Commitment

  • Supportive supervision stands out as one of the most important variables that emerge as most important in predicting employee commitment to the organization.
  • Research on job complexity has often shown that this aspect of workers’ jobs has long-term effects on cognitive styles, self esteem, intellectual flexibility, and other variables.
  • Interestingly, one of the most salient factors to emerge in our analysis is the importance of employees’ perceptions that their work is appreciated by the public and the media.

Predicting psychological distress

  • Emotional distress of employees is important to consider for both the effect on the well-being of the employee and in regard to consequences in the workplace.
  • Perceived recognition for the work that they do plays a key role, and any gains organizations can make in improving this aspect of the job will likely pay off not only in terms of worker commitment and effectiveness, but also in their personal well-being.
  • The analysis indicates that lower psychological distress is found more often among employees who feel appreciated; older employees; and employees with more vacation hours.


  • Program data show that Project RETAINS had about 600 users as of August 2007.
  • As of February 2009 there are now 744 users of Project RETAINS.
  • While centers that have used RETAINS are more likely to say that the center was consistently below authorized staffing levels last year, they are also more likely to indicate that retention has increased over the past three years.

Defining the dispatch position

  • Some of the variations in the position are based upon: work setting, types of service provided, specialization, number of units.
  • In addition to the issue of specialization, dispatcher workload levels results from the combination of how many units, channels and frequencies are monitored.
  • The number of law enforcement and fire/EMS units a dispatcher is responsible for generally increases with agency size.

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