(TNS) – Shortly after a recruiting event began Thursday for the local emergency dispatch center, the three attendees listened to heartbreaking audio of a decade-old 911 call.
A woman gives an address then shouts, “No, no! Please, no.”
A man picks up the phone and says to the 911 operator, “I just shot everyone.
Would-be dispatchers listened intently to the 2012 incident in Longmont, Colorado — which would become a murder-suicide — played in the recording. Each tried to retain as many details as possible about the early morning call, during which a disgruntled ex-boyfriend who had just been released from prison broke into the house of his former girlfriend’s sister. and shot and killed the sister’s wives and husband.
He then committed suicide while on the phone with the dispatcher.
Training coordinator Marshall Dean asked the job applicants what address the woman gave in the last moments of her life.
No one has it all figured out.
The call highlighted the realities of working at the Santa Fe Regional Emergency Communications Center — realities Dean said he wanted to impress candidates.
“When someone is having the worst day of their life – when you compose  – where is he going ? It goes to the RECC,” he said.
The Regional Emergency Communications Center and the Santa Fe County Department of Human Resources held their first in a series of rapid hire events Thursday morning in downtown Santa Fe in an effort to staff approximately 30 jobs and to recruit interns. Last week, the center had a vacancy rate of 64.6%, compared to 67% last month.
Current and former employees cited several reasons for the ongoing shortages at the 911 center, including low pay, too much overtime and what was called a harsh management style by a former manager.
County commissioners recently passed an amendment to a collective bargaining agreement with center workers that raised wages and changed shift requirements.
Dean said the local 911 center isn’t the only one understaffed. The problem reflects a regional and national trend.
“If you look at Colorado, Arizona, Texas, they’re all running under 40 [percent] at half their normal strength,” he said.
As part of the county’s usual hiring process, applicants for dispatch jobs would participate in an orientation and dispatch mock test on the first day. Those selected to move forward will attend an interview at a later date, Dean said. At rapid hire events, job applicants go through all three parts of the process in a matter of hours.
Jonatan Welborn, 41, one of three attendees at Thursday’s event, said he moved to Santa Fe about three weeks ago after a job he had in Oregon” went south”.
A friend of his in Santa Fe who works in the health care industry received a notification from the county about the rapid hiring event and forwarded it to him. Her training and first 15 years of work were in social services, Welborn said. “I have something transferable – let’s see what happens.”
Another candidate, Joe Madrid, said he heard about the rapid hiring event in a news report and was alarmed by the high vacancy rate at the dispatch center.
“It’s like, ‘Oh no!’ “Said Madrid. “It sounded like something I needed to read, so I read it and said, ‘Oh, that sounds interesting.’
Madrid, 49, has worked in customer service and has a military background – two separate fields which he says have helped him hone his attention to detail and his ability to perform under pressure.
These skills were put to the test during his mock exam.
Candidates had two hours to take the CritiCall exam, a computer test made up of 11 modules assessing several skills, such as data entry, map reading, typing speed and the ability to remember numbers.
The program gives applicants an overall score, but Dean said the county is taking a more holistic approach to assessing applicants by looking at their scores in individual test areas.
“We don’t just focus on [overall] brand itself because everyone has strengths in one of those elements, as well as weaknesses in those elements,” he said. “…You could have an individual who maybe had a 79 [overall score], but they have 100 here, a 98 here, and two 80s. Why wouldn’t they qualify? They touch key areas of what is expected of them.”
A candidate will only be disqualified from appearing for an interview if their scores are low overall, Dean added.
Dean tracked the candidates’ progress through the test on his computer, a task that would later be administered by a human resources worker.
Thursday’s candidates were each interviewed virtually by a panel of call center executives, including interim manager Roberto Lujan, quality assurance specialist Glenda Ortiz and administrator Jennifer Horta.
Dean said he couldn’t confirm if any of them had been selected to train for dispatch jobs.
He runs an intensive eight-week training program for trainees, while new recruits with previous dispatch experience go through a shorter training process.
Dean has led four intern sessions so far this year, he said. By the second or third week, he can see trainees “shifting gears” in how they would handle hypothetical dispatch scenarios.
By the end of their training period, he said, they each work on 40 to 50 mock calls to prepare for critical public safety positions.
“It’s a tough and mentally tough position,” Dean said. “[The rapid-hire events give] this opportunity to realize the importance of work and what they will undertake in a career – and the impact they have.
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