CINCINNATI -- Cincinnati officials received an update on staffing at the emergency communications center, more than six months after 16-year-old Kyle Plush called 911 for help as he suffocated in his minivan.
Plush's death heightened the city's need for more 911 operators at the city's 911 center. Members of the Cincinnati City Council learned Monday that hundreds people are applying for open positions, but the hiring process may be keeping them away.
Acting City Manager Patrick Duhaney said 443 people have applied for positions since 2016. He said one of the first steps in the application process is an exam -- one that must be taken in downtown Cincinnati.
"We lost 250 candidates just due to scheduling," Duhaney said. "At some time that's inconvenient to them, probably because it was regular business hours."
After the exam, applicants must pass a personal history questionnaire, a test traditionally reserved for police and fire recruits.
"The numbers keep dwindling down," said Supervising Human Resources Analyst Doris Adotey.
The questionnaire brought the number of eligible candidates down to 82. In the end, 11 new 911 operators were hired.
Plush suffocated inside his minivan outside the Seven Hills School on April 10 despite making two calls to 911. Cincinnati City Councilwoman Amy Murray, who has been a champion for an improved 911 center since Plush's death, said "every second counts."
"Right now we need to make sure we have our 911 facility fully staffed," Murray said.
Proposed fixes for the hiring process?
The city is recommending that applicants be allowed to take the required ECC exam anywhere, anytime. Officials also recommend getting rid of the personal history questionnaire.
"They still will be required to go through the standard city background check," Adotey said.
City officials said they don't want to lower the standards; instead, refine the hiring process to make sure what happened to Plush doesn't happen to any other children or adults.
Murray urges all Tri-State residents to sign up for Smart911 -- a nationwide system allowing users to save personal information that could help first responders answer emergency calls faster. The Plush family will join city leaders at a news conference kicking off a new campaign for Smart911 at 3 p.m. Tuesday.