Elizabeth Fulks has worked as a 911 dispatcher in Raleigh for the past 6 years after leaving the emergency veterinary field. She grew up in Raleigh but moved to California for 13 years. She decided to return to her hometown about 12 years ago. She has enjoyed being able to serve her community in a positive way for so long.
Elizabeth delivered the following comments to City Council on June 7, 2022:
Good Evening. My name is Elizabeth Fulks and for 6 years I have worked as a telecommunicator for Raleigh Wake Emergency Communications, well until Sunday. Our 911 center has reached critical staffing levels that is putting the safety of the citizens and our first responders in danger. We are working below minimum staffing daily. 12 hour shifts without lunch breaks and mandatory overtime on our days off. If these trends continue over the summer there is a good chance when you call 911 it might ring for several minutes before someone answers. Minutes that can be the difference between life and death for someone you love.
On July 14th 2020 I received a call from my mom. She was having some recent vision issues. Her landline phone wasn’t working and she couldn’t find her phone charger. It was the beginning of pandemic and she was scared she was about to be completely isolated. I told her to hang on then called security for her retirement community to go check on her. Afterwards she called me back and said “I want you to know you’re really good at your job.” I asked what she meant and she said “I was scared and panicking and you were calm and made it better. I like to think you’re like that with all your callers.” The next morning I woke up to a call that she had passed away. I was thankful that in our last conversation I gave her comfort and made her feel safe. It was then when I realized the true value of my job. I just wish the city council recognized our value as well.
At our 911 center we answer emergency and non-emergency calls for over a million residents. We also dispatch for 8 police departments, 20 fire departments, and all of EMS for Wake County. Yet our salary is one of the lowest in the area. We are losing employees weekly that are going to smaller agencies with less stress and more money. Last week I put in my notice. Leaving a job that I love and I’m good at without having another job lined up because it no longer serves the needs of the county. I know the city is considering increasing the pay ranges for communications but if you really want to stop the mass resignation from happening there needs to be, at minimum, a 10% raise across the board. All public safety departments in the city are being pushed to their limits and it’s not sustainable. As the capital city we should do better and be the example of how to protect our citizens.
On Sunday I will walk away from a profession I have loved for the past 6 years because I am scared of what is going to happen this summer when we don’t have the resources to protect people. We need to do better. We don’t have a choice.