Brendan Schlauch was a contributor for GOVERNING.E-mail: email@example.com
In recent years, securing adequate staffing for emergency services has become increasingly challenging -- some would even argue it's approaching a national crisis.
The responsibility for finding enough qualified people for 911 call centers has traditionally rested with individual local governments.
But officials in Richmond, Virginia -- an area plagued by staffing shortages -- have turned to the innovative idea of regional recruiting. It's an approach they say offers the best hope of finding much needed emergency communication officers.
In November 2006, the counties of Chesterfield, Hanover, Henrico and the City of Richmond applied for a grant offered through Virginia's Wireless E-911 Board. The grant's aim was to encourage localities to work together to secure proper staffing levels at emergency call centers while also raising public awareness of services provided by 911. The grant was approved in August 2007, and in May 2008 the Richmond localities launched the first-in-the-nation multi-jurisdictional recruitment initiative for emergency communication officers.
The campaign, spearheaded by Excite Marketing Team, was made even more innovative through its prominent use of viral marketing outlets like Myspace, Facebook, and YouTube. The websites included job qualifications, recruitment videos, and a link to the job application site and were utilized because of their ability to reach some of the "tech savvy" demographic the initiative was looking to recruit.
So far the campaign to find new emergency communication officers has "more than met...expectations," says Charlie Udriet, Deputy Director of Hanover County Emergency Communications.
The City of Richmond has found particular success. Within the first week of the initiative's launch, officials received close to 1,500 applications and quickly decided to stop accepting anymore until further notice. Success like this, argues Randy Marcus, chief of staff to Virginia's Lt. Governor William T. Bolling, underscores "the growing importance of regional cooperation" in today's world.
As local governments across the United States struggle to solve longstanding problems, they may want to look to Richmond as an example of how a region-wide collaborative approach can lead to positive results. Though such efforts may not be as successful or may take longer for goals to be realized, working together is a simple idea with a lot of potential.
Marcus points out that for Metropolitan Richmond, it's an idea local governments won't soon forget: "If we can work together on this, we can work together on other things as well."
Written and compiled by staff writers and editors, GOVERNING View is an on-the-ground, and sometimes behind-the-scenes, look at the topics we're covering in print and online. From notes on what's up in statehouses, county courthouses and city halls, to encounters with people, places and things, GOVERNING View is a window into the side of state and local government you don't always see.