Do you have what it takes to be a 911 call taker?

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JEFFERSON COUNTY, Colo. (KDVR) – Ten to 20% of trainees who are selected to become 911 call takers or dispatchers never make it through the 15 weeks of training, according to the JeffCom 911 training Manager, Bess Joyce.

“It’s hard, and it takes an emotional toll, so that also goes along with retention and keeping people through the academy as well,” said Joyce.

The rigorous process to fill open positions requires recruits to endure an extensive background check, a psychological exam, and a lie detector test.

Ten people are currently going through the second 911 academy of 2021 for JeffCom 911. They were selected from more than 200 candidates who applied for the academy.

“They all come from different backgrounds and a wide variety of former lives and former professionals, so it will be really interesting to follow them along and see how they all enjoy this job,” she said.

The recruits

The FOX31 Problem Solvers met several recruits – including a former home care nurse, a former flight attendant, a former park ranger, a former firefighter, and a former customer service sales associate – on the third day of their training.

Each said he or she was excited about the process of being selected and becoming a 911 call taker despite the intense process so far.

“You understand why you’re going through the rigorous and sometimes tedious steps that we have to through to even get to this point,” said, Victoria Haiges, a former home health care nurse. “Personally, I think a lot of other professions should go as deep as that. I used to do foster care, and it’s nowhere near what I’ve gone through with this job.”

Haiges said the multi-week background check didn’t turn her off, especially since she wanted to continue serving the community after her elderly patient passed away.

“They pick and choose, and hopefully very wisely,” she said. “I’m glad that it’s this deep because then … you know then who you’re getting.”

“It was still just really intimidating,” said Nancy Burckhalter, who previously worked for Verizon as a customer service specialist. “It’s like, ‘this is really serious.’ It’s like they – they’re serious about making sure you’re qualified for this position.”

Burckhalter said she had to answer hundreds of questions about random topics during the psychological evaluation.

The most unusual question she received during the psychological exam was “do you ever have thoughts about things that you don’t want to talk to (sic) with other people?” Another recruit said she was asked if she had ever sold her body for a sexual purpose.

Burckhalter said she understood why the process was so thorough.

“I want to feel confident, and I can say with this only being the third day of training so far, I know that when the time comes, and I’m allowed to take calls on my own, I’m going to feel confident because the training … is so extensive and so elaborate and so in-depth.”

JeffCom History

“Multi-tasking is essential, and you have to be able to hear and process and think on your feet because you’re being provided someone’s emergency,” said Michael Brewer, the deputy director of JeffCom 911.

Listen to an actual 911 call taker help a woman have a baby below:

Brewer said the JeffCom 911 center has only been around for a few years in its current state. In 2018, eight communications facilities merged into one. Brewer said that change was especially helpful when a massive, deadly Interstate 70 freeway crash involving a semi-truck happened in 2019.

“There were well over 20 agencies that responded to that, and we were able to keep contain all that communication internal to JeffCom. Before, you would have had eight different centers that were trying to pass calls back and forth, trying to call each other, handle all that radio traffic by themselves,” he said.

Carisa Scott contributed to this report.

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