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Gallatin County 911 dispatch faced with lack of staff, increase in calls

A smartphone is used to call 911
Since 2018 Gallatin County has seen about a 20% increase in emergency and non-emergency calls.

Gallatin County says an increase in calls to its 911 dispatch center coupled with a lack of staff hasn't impacted emergency call wait times.

Since 2018 the county has seen about a 20% increase in emergency and non-emergency calls. Tim Martindale, who oversees Gallatin County’s 911 dispatch, says it’s looking like that will continue.

“In terms of calls for service, calls that law, fire and EMS respond to, we’re trending towards having about 3,600 more calls this year than we had last year,” he said.

The department is short 10 employees — recently, several left because of housing costs. But data from the county show since 2019 it has been meeting national standards for emergency calls: 90% are answered within 15 seconds.

“If you're calling 911 we’re not seeing any negative effect due to staffing," Martindale said. "If you’re calling our non-emergency line, yes, that may ring a little bit longer."

To help ease the burden the county’s records department is answering some non-emergency calls.

Martindale says the biggest thing that could help recruit more dispatchers is employee housing.

A county spokesperson says as of last week four units are now available for employees needing transitional housing. The county is in the early stages of building employee housing.

Olivia Weitz covers Bozeman and surrounding communities in Southwest Montana for Yellowstone Public Radio. She has reported for Northwest News Network and Boise State Public Radio and previously worked at a daily print newspaper. She is a graduate of the University of Puget Sound and the Transom Story Workshop.