A ‘highly rewarding’ career

City searching for 911 operators to send help where needed

T-R FILE PHOTO
Being a 911 operator requires skills in communication and multitasking, but employees say the job also brings a sense of pride in being able to help people in crisis. The city of Marshalltown is currently looking to hire two 911 operators.

T-R FILE PHOTO Being a 911 operator requires skills in communication and multitasking, but employees say the job also brings a sense of pride in being able to help people in crisis. The city of Marshalltown is currently looking to hire two 911 operators.

There is a person behind every emergency call in Marshalltown and Marshall County, and that person is the reason police officers, firefighters and paramedics can do their jobs to help others: that person is a communications operator, and more are needed.

“We are looking to fill two positions in the 911 (Communications) Center,” said Marshalltown Police Capt. Mike Hanken. “Communication operators are the first responders for public safety.”

With one position open and another one soon to be vacant, he said the city of Marshalltown is in real need of finding applicants who want to help save lives and work with public safety officials.

“These are the ones that take that critical information, work with the caller to find out where they are, what their emergency is, what emergency services they are needing,” Hanken said, conceding it’s been a struggle to find qualified personnel. “Each call becomes their call as well, just like the officers, firefighters and paramedics.”

Being a 911 operator requires skill, and applicants who are considered will receive training to ensure they go into the job with the knowledge they need.

“You need to have a good sense of listening skills,” Hanken said. “Multitasking, computer skills, typing skills are essential … it’s fast-paced, it’s challenging, but if you ask any [operator], it’s highly rewarding.”

Along with emergency calls, operators also handle administrative, non-emergency calls.

The first step for those interested in the position is to fill out a job application and turn it in to the city Human Resources Department by 5 p.m. Dec. 29. A basic criminal background search will follow, and those considered for the job will then go through a testing phase.

“The basic step is to get that application turned in … so that we can extend an invitation to you to attend the testing, which will be on Jan. 4,” Hanken said.

The test, called the 911 Zone Test, assesses applicants’ skills in listening to radio calls, writing and typing critical information and then answering questions about that information. It is set for 6 p.m. Jan. 4 at the Marshalltown Public Library.

“It’s basically an assessment tool that simulates what you would experience working in the Comm Center environment,” Hanken said. “We give you all the tools necessary to successfully complete it.”

He also said applicants under consideration will be given training and be interviewed by city officials they will work with on the job.

Current operators said anyone interested in the job should not be afraid to apply and test.

“Actually, I went to school to study accounting, and then this job opening came about, and I’m like ‘That’s interesting,'” said three-year operator Casandra Andrade. “You don’t know if you have the right skill set until you take the test.”

Veteran operator Angela Duffy said she initially thought she had done poorly on the test after she applied.

“Then I got the call, so you just don’t know; you might already know how to do it,” the 18-year operator said, adding younger people who are familiar with typing and multitasking would be good candidates for the job. “That’s the hardest part of the job, multitasking.”

Andrade also said more bilingual operators are needed.

Operators work four 12-hour shifts and a four-hour shift on the fifth work day, Hanken said. According to the application document, starting pay is $16.82 an hour, increasing to $19.73 after the training period.

Hanken said he and city Communications Director Teresa Lang can answer questions about the positions, whether over the phone, via email or in-person at the MPD, 22 N. Center St. Lang can be reached at tlang@marshalltown-ia.gov and Hanken at mhanken@marshalltown-ia.gov.

Applications can be found at ci.marshalltown.ia.us/static/departments/hr/jobs_postings.php and can be turned in at Marshalltown City Hall, 24 N. Center St and can be emailed to hr@ci.marshalltown.ia.us. To mail an application, send it to City of Marshalltown Attn: Human Resources, 24 N. Center St., Marshalltown, Iowa 50158.

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Contact Adam Sodders at (641) 753-6611 or asodders@timesrepublican.com