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El Paso 911 operators overworked, interim fire chief says

Time cards of 911 dispatch employees are showing alarmingly long work shifts.

In January it was not uncommon for employees to work overtime multiple times. Many of those long shifts were well over 12 hours. Several instances were found where dispatchers worked 15-hour shifts. Using a sample of 50 employee time cards, 66 percent of dispatchers had worked over nine hours during at least one shift in the month of January. Of those shifts 81 percent were at least 12 hours long.

To help fill the vacancies leading to that overtime, interim Chief Mario D'Agostino has changed recruitment.

"We actually verified their qualifications as we received the applications," D'Agostino said. "Rather than wait to get 1,000 and find out if you only have 18 to start."

Changes to training are also expected to help.

"We decreased the training time from eight to 10 down to five months," D'Agostino said. "The training in a classroom and then we bring them in through certain phases into the center to get their hands-on experience."

Right now, they're using volunteers from within the police and fire departments to fill in until their full staff is hired.

“On their days off, they are volunteering to come in to help with those additional shifts so that we don't place all the burden on our communicators,” D’Agostino said.

D'Agostino said a new recruit class made up of 26 people will start work Monday. That should help fill all current vacancies in dispatch.

The department is already recruiting for the next session in June. If you're interested, follow the link for more information.

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