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MINNEAPOLIS– The same workers we call in an emergency are the ones calling for help now. The Minneapolis 911 center is hoping to hire new employees to address a staffing shortage.

It is the busiest dispatch center in the entire Midwest outside of Chicago. The Minneapolis Emergency Communications Center or MECC needs workers to keep up with demand.

Right now, the need is for 911 call takers.

“We are the first point of contact,” said Laurie Thomas-Neely.

The 911 call center is the first point of contact for public safety in Minneapolis. Response times to calls have been slowed by a lack of workers and an increase in calls for help from the community. Operators work in a fast-paced, ever-changing environment where patience and customer service skills are a must.

“No two days are the same every day. You’re going to come here and you’re probably going to hear something new, something you’ve never heard before. Every day is a challenge,” said said Rachel Zempel.

Zempel and Leticia Cardenas say answering calls can be a chore, but it’s rewarding.

“It feels good to know that I’m doing something for others rather than myself on a day-to-day basis at work,” Cardenas said.

This call center offers 911 operators $23 to $32 per hour; 911 dispatchers can earn between $25 and $34 per hour. More than 25 positions are open and help is urgently needed.

“We’ve got everyone filling in as often as they can right now. I’ll be honest, people starting here, there’s overtime. People are working lonely overtime right now, but it’s “That’s how to solve that. We want to bring in more people. We want to give more work-life balance,” Joni Hodne said.

“It’s a chore. Like she said, there’s overtime, but there are days when you’re like, you know, take a deep breath. But it’s rewarding, but it’s something our community needs right now,” Thomas-Neely said.

For her, it’s more than just a job. She is proud to be part of the city’s efforts to improve public safety.

“I’m from North Minneapolis. I never thought I’d be here. I’m a community person helping the community,” Thomas-Neely said.

A hiring bonus of $1,000 is offered to qualified candidates. A high school diploma or equivalent is required to qualify. Recruiters will be at the Bryan Coyle Center on Thursday and at Open Streets on West Broadway this weekend signing people up.