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Montgomery County Considers Shorter 911 Dispatch Shifts

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The long shifts for 911 call center workers in Montgomery County aren't going anywhere for a while, despite a 911 dispatcher falling asleep during a call in April.

The county was in the process of making sweeping changes to its call center when the incident occurred. A woman called in when her husband had trouble breathing and was turning blue. She was greeted by silence. The dispatcher was well into a 24-hour shift, and had nodded off.

Those shifts are the longest of any in the region for 911 dispatchers, calling into question whether they should be shortened. 

Montgomery County Fire Chief Richard Bowers acknowledges "challenges" exist in having to work that long, but he says there are many benefits. For one thing, the length of the shifts ensures the same people -- both dispatchers and firefighters -- consistently work together. 

"When you and I are working together, that means we know we will be working the next shift together," Bowers says. 

The 24-hour shifts are part of collective bargaining agreements, meaning any changes would have to be negotiated. The earliest any changes could be implemented is July of 2013.

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