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News : Vacancies Remain at Austin 9-1-1 After Hiring Approval
Austin, TX, July 21, 2015 -- Austin’s 9-1-1 call center leaders say they’re slowly correcting longstanding vacancies thanks to new hires nearly a year after city leaders approved 21 new positions in Austin’s budget. As of Tuesday, 19 vacant call taker and dispatcher chairs remain, staff confirm.
On Monday those vacancies will drop by three as three new police dispatchers finish class work and move to the call center floor. But, the formula is not so simple.
Positions that are listed (or about to be formally posted) as vacant include ten dispatchers, six call takers and three supervisor leads. But, they are considered temporary. Once individuals now in training finish a probationary period, they’re moved into a full time position and ‘take up’ one of those vacancies. In short, staff explain the vacancy rate does not actually reflect the number of bodies staffing call answer stations. The entire process can take between three to six months to fill.
One city staff member referred to the vacancy list at Austin 9-1-1 as a living document since every pay period brings a fresh list of terminations and resignations or medical leave. As a result, the city keeps no historical data on vacancy rates at 9-1-1. The hiring process is a living thing, too.
"It’s a rolling process. We always want to have people in the pipeline because you’re always having attrition, retirement and those things," Cmdr Darryl Jamail tells KXAN. "But yes, we’re able to meet that (hiring pace to minimize vacancies)… That’s why we’ve been so aggressively getting the message out there about this job and advertising the positions we have." On Tuesday, Austin Police Department sent out a tweet inviting potential recruits to consider what Austin 9-1-1 has to offer.
Since Austin 9-1-1 posted this recruiting video on YouTube last winter, senior staff say the response has been steady. A blended class of three call takers and two dispatchers recently got underway.
Cmdr Jamail points out the ultimate goal is to find quality people who’ll stick around and gain experience.
"(If) you look at the demands this job puts on people , it’s always a challenge to get people that are going to come here and do this work… where you can do it in another capacity (one of Austin’s numerous private call centers) and not face the stresses."
KXAN first told you about an internal audit may 2014. It found Austin 9-1-1 was having problems keeping staff from burning out and quitting due to mandatory overtime and lack of support. Commander Jamail says they are slowly curbing overtime with each new hire.
Last year, Austin 9-1-1 secured 21 new positions. Another 15 are being requested this year. That includes three positions that remained unfilled this year. Prior to Fiscal Year 2014, Austin 9-1-1 saw no real growth in staff even as the city’s population and call volume increased.
Posted by Veronica Silva Cusi, news correspondent
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Published: Wednesday, July 22, 2015