New director of York County's embattled 911 center says this is his greatest challenge

Lindsey O'Laughlin
York Dispatch
Matthew Hobson, the new director at the York County 911 Center, talks with Chris Krichten, director of safety and emergency management for WellSpan, at a meet-and greet for Hobson at the center Friday, Feb. 14, 2020. Hobson started the job Feb. 10. Bill Kalina photo

The new director of the York County 911 Center said Friday it will be a priority for him to address staffing and retention issues at the embattled emergency communications center.

"The biggest challenge that you’re going to find, regardless of location, is staffing," said Director Matthew Hobson, who just wrapped up his first week on the job in York County. 

First responders, 911 center employees and several county officials gathered at the county's emergency services center in Springettsbury Township on Feb. 14 to formally welcome Hobson.

In his remarks, Hobson said he has worked in the field as a paramedic, a volunteer firefighter and a deputy sheriff, in addition to administrative experience.

Before being hired in York County, Hobson was executive director of New River Valley Emergency Communications Regional Authority in Christiansburg, Virginia.

Prior to that, he oversaw communications for police, fire and emergency medical service calls for the East Baton Rouge Parish in Louisiana, which handled more than 320,000 emergency calls per year.

Chief Dan Hoff of York Area United Fire & Rescue was part of the search committee to find the county's new 911 director.

"We sent two highly qualified candidates to the commissioners, but I don’t think any of us doubted Matt would rise to the top in the end," Hoff said.

Hobson's initial goals at the 911 center will include reestablishing lines of communication among police, fire and emergency medical services, he said, as well as addressing staff recruitment and retention among 911 dispatchers.

It's a challenge finding 911 dispatchers who have the aptitude to meet the job requirements as well as the endurance to work long hours under demanding circumstances at an organization that operates 24 hours a day, Hobson said.

"We ask them to sacrifice birthdays, holidays, nights, weekends," he said. "It’s not for the faint of heart."

Hobson said it's too early to say specifically how he'll address staffing challenges in York County, but he did say every option will be on the table.

Background: The York County 911 Center has struggled in recent years with staff shortages and excessive use of overtime. The previous board of commissioners approved several contracts with outside consultants to suss out the issues at the center.

Former York County 911 Director Jacqui Brininger resigned in October, about a month after the most recent consultant, IXP Corp., began its work at the center.

The county has a six-month $750,000 contract with the New Jersey-based company and has spent nearly $1 million total on outside consultants and audit reports of the center in the past three years.

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