DURHAM N.C. (WNCN) – The first response to an emergency starts on the phone with 911, and Durham needs more people answering that call.

That’s why Durham Tech started its nine-week telecommunication course.

The inaugural class has 13 students and uses real-life simulators to teach how to handle a myriad of calls from mental health to active assailants to domestic violence.

Michaco Anderson is one of the students. Anderson wants to help people either as a nurse or 911 telecommunicator.

“We’ve either been a caller at one time in our life or we’ve watched someone else need help and we just want to respond as quickly and as efficiently as possible,” Anderson said. “Some of the 911 calls we’ve listened to have been a little bit rattling and unsettling but it prepares you for what you’re going to listen to perhaps several calls a day.”

As of April, Durham’s Emergency Communications department filled 70.2 percent of all positions full and part-time.

Out of 60 call takers, dispatchers and shift supervisors, 40 positions are filled.

Durham Tech’s 911 coordinator, Jeryl Anderson, said graduates in July will have to pass the state operator exam, finish more than 80 hours of instruction, have a CPR certification, and have a chance to speak with multiple agencies looking to hire.

Courses will then continue this fall.

“They will get a great knowledge base which will make them attractive candidates when they put in to work at any center across our state,” Anderson said.

In addition to the course, Mayor Pro-Tem Mark-Anthony Middleton said city leaders are also advocating for more funding in next year’s budget to train new and existing 911 operators.

Middleton has been a vocal advocate for combatting crime in the city and equipping first responders.

“This is an absolutely critical part in a comprehensive, multi-faceted approach to addressing gun violence,” Middleton said. “Not only in stemming gun violence strategically but in the short term tactically. We’ve got to stop the bleeding.”