DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) – On Thursday, the City of Durham held a job fair at the NC Works career center on South Briggs. Officials looked to recruit call takers as almost half of the city’s 911 operator positions are vacant.
CBS 17 has been reporting for months on the staffing shortage at the Durham Emergency Communications Center (DECC) and the impact it’s having on the community. Multiple people have said they’ve had to call 911 multiple times or hold on the line for several minutes before someone answers.
According to city officials, as of Thursday, 28 of their 60 positions at the Durham Emergency Communications Center were vacant.
Seven employees will start training on Monday, and city officials said that will reduce the vacancies to 21.
“It’s very important that we are available when people call,” said Tangela Gibson, assistant director at the DECC.
Gibson said at the job fair they had 32 applicants apply in person and 80 people registered online for the event. She said the 911 operators they hire from the pool of candidates who applied on Thursday will not start taking calls until after they have completed training.
“Our training program is eight weeks,” Gibson said.
The next academy will start on Nov. 1 and they will train up to 12 candidates.
Since that academy can only hold 12, this means some who are hired at Thursday’s job fair might not be able to go to an academy until next year’s first academy in late January or February.
Rikaya Earl came to the job fair on Thursday to apply for one of the 911 operator positions because she said she is ready for a career change.
“I do environmental services, I’ve been at my job for 15 years,” Earl said.
She said she has been looking for another job for a while, and she decided to pursue this profession after hearing about the shooting at McDougald Terrace where some said they had a hard time getting ahold of 911.
As CBS 17 previously reported, McDougald Terrace president Ashley Canady said she had to call 911 six times to report a shooting where multiple people were shot on Aug. 18.
“After the issue at McDougald Terrace, where no one could be reached, nothing like that should happen because you don’t have enough people,” Earl said.
Earl studied criminal justice and she is hoping the city will give her a shot at this.
“It’s a career change. If I’m able to help somebody it will be a blessing,” Earl said. “At the end of the day, if we’re going to do this, do it right and do it fair, and make sure you answer all calls.”
The positions the city is looking to recruit include call takers, training analysts, and administrative coordinators.
Anyone who missed Thursday’s job fair can still apply online.