While emergency dispatchers who are calm, cool and collected may not see the carnage that their counterparts, the police, and firefighters see, they may be just as vulnerable or more to the post-traumatic-stress disorders that all of them struggle with. Read More ...
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How Are 911 Dispatchers Trained?
If there’s something strange in the neighborhood, who you gonna call? It’s definitely not Ghostbusters. Unlike the 1984 movie Ghostbusters, the greatest threats in our society are most definitely not ghosts, but everyday dangers, and circumstances.
In times that we need help, whether for life threatening or stressful situations, there are people we can actually call to help us out, and they’re called emergency dispatch personnel. They are the humble people whose face we cannot see and are hardly recognized for their hard work.
Emergency dispatch personnel save thousands of lives every day by just picking up the phone and doing their best to help the person on the other side of the line. However, the only way they could do this is if they actually know how to do their job.
A rigorous training is necessary for someone to be able to think up the best recourse in dire situations. In life or death situations every second count. Hence, emergency dispatchers are trained to be able to think of a solution in the shortest time possible.
It is also important for a dispatcher to have excellent communication skills because it is their job to communicate critical information and coordinate the emergency personnel.
What are the Requirements Before Training as a 911 Dispatcher?
Listed below are the major requirements before being allowed to go through the 911 dispatcher training program:
Most dispatch centers do not require applicants to have a bachelor or associate’s degree. However, this is most definitely a plus since a degree can signify a candidate has undergone previous training in some aspects that may be helpful to them being a 911 dispatcher.
Dispatch centers per state can vary according to their local legislations. But generally, a high school diploma would be sufficient to get accepted. (1)
Criminal History and Background
The requirements for applicants for becoming a 911 dispatcher include having a clean record. This is to assure that there are no conflicts of interest. They are also required to undergo a lie detector test to ensure that the things they are saying are true.
Physical Fitness and Health
To be allowed to undergo training, candidates are required to prove that they are physically able to perform their duties. This includes mental, psychological, and physical fitness. Applicants are required to have a vision and hearing test before their application. They must also have enough physical fortitude to stay calm in emergency situations.
Only United States Citizens are allowed to apply for 911 Dispatcher training.
Necessary Skills to Become a 911 Dispatcher
Dispatchers get tons of calls every day; it is important that they attain the necessary skills not just to properly address these calls, but also to maintain a healthy mindset and create a healthy working environment.
Some of the skills required of 911 dispatchers include a strong empathy skill. A strong empathy skill will enable a dispatcher to immerse themselves on the situation of the other person on the other end of the line. This makes formulating a proper approach easier and more effectively.
They are also required to have a strong communication skill to avoid miscommunications between them, the victims, and the dispatch team. Two of the most important skills are having good leadership and problem-solving skills. Other important skills are good typing skills and expertise in dispatch computer-aided software.
911 Dispatcher Training
Most states require dispatchers to have a training certificate before they start working. However, even those that do not still require that their dispatchers undergo some kind of training. Dispatchers are trained in two instances, before they start working and during the duration of their employment. (2)
Some of the subjects included in their training are:
Dispatchers are also required to take a 40-hour training course on telecommunications. This includes instructions on how to use communication equipment, verbal training, and actual emergency simulations.
Being a 911 dispatcher is no easy job, but with these training programs, you can rest assured that in the case that you’d need to call them you’re talking to someone who’s well equipped to get you out of trouble.
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Emergency Dispatch Program Careers
Emergency dispatchers can be considered as everyone’s first life line when unforeseen events happen. Their efficiency and effectiveness can spell the difference between life and death. That is why it is no wonder why many of our heroic fellow men and women choose the noble life of an emergency dispatcher.
The United States’ emergency hotline “9-1-1” was founded in 1957 after the National Association of Fire Chiefs suggested the need of a universal hotline for reporting fires. Since then, the government has adopted the program as a means to improve emergency response nationwide. (1)
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are approximately 102,000 emergency dispatchers across the U.S. Sadly, due to changing career paths of younger generations, and the stressful nature of the job, fewer people are willing to work in dispatch centers. The same organization expects a 3% drop in employment come 2024, or down to 99,000. (2)
However, for people who find their calling in helping others reach authorities, this can be seen as a great opportunity. This article aims to introduce you to various career paths in the emergency dispatch industry.
Emergency Dispatch Careers
911 Dispatch Operators
911 Dispatchers, also known as public safety telecommunicators, are the first people that communicate with callers. They are the ones who are responsible for taking calls and assessing what action is best for the situation at hand.
Being the ones who are required to talk to people in distress, 911 dispatchers are required to have sharp memories to be able to accumulate as much data as possible. They possess high analytical prowess which helps them assess and decide which action suits the situation best quickly.
It is also necessary that they train their communication skills so that they can communicate the status of the situation clearly, and so that the caller would be able to understand their instructions better.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates the median income of 911 dispatchers to be around $18.69 an hour, or an annual pay of $38,870. The top ten percentile, however, earn as much as $56,580. Most dispatch centers require applicants to have at least a high school diploma. (2)
Dispatch Center Supervisors
The main job description of supervisors is to communicate the objectives of the dispatch center to other members of the organization. They oversee the efficiency of the different members of the team to minimize downtimes.
911 Supervisors are required to have an overall knowledge of various sectors because they are often the ones approached by staff members to ask questions. Lastly, they communicate the status of the dispatch center to superiors on a daily basis.
Supervisors need to have excellent communication skills, both in talking and listening. They need to show objectivity and fairness among his subordinates. The last thing 911 dispatchers would want to feel is that their supervisor prefers another over them. Lastly, they need to be fast and smart decision makers. Every second count when someone’s life is literally on the line. (3)
Supervisor salaries can range widely depending on different states and providers. The average range, however, can be between $40,000- $50,000.
Training Supervisors are the ones who help newly recruited dispatchers to help them adjust to the work environment. It is necessary that what they teach is consistent among different recruits to avoid conflicts in the future. They also train dispatchers on how to properly handle various situations and the techniques on how to approach every call.
Training supervisors need to have a high level of patience and communications skills. They need to master how to become a dispatcher themselves to show trainees how to do things properly. Most training supervisors often start as dispatchers themselves.
Technicians are the ones in charge of making sure that every equipment is working and properly maintained. It would be next to impossible for dispatchers to function properly without them. Their technical knowledge is essential for the efficiency of the work place.
Com techs need to have updated knowledge on new equipment that can be used to replace outdated ones in the center. They need to have excellent communication skills for them to teach everyone how to handle various equipment properly. Most communication technicians are graduates of communication engineering.
Every single one of these positions is necessary for a dispatch center to work correctly for citizens. If anyone of them is missing, it would be impossible for dispatchers to cater to the emergencies that are called to them every day.
These jobs may be stressful at sometimes, however, besides the considerable high pay they get, the fulfilling thought of being able to help save someone’s life is something incomparable.
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You need to prepare for employment as a 911 dispatcher, and this means you must meet minimum requirements. The basic requirements you need include being 18-years-old or older, have a high school diploma or equivalent. Depending on where you are trying to work, you might be required to have a valid driver’s license. If you meet these requirements, then you may qualify, but different employers may require different qualifications.